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Soul! was a product of the 1960s when the liberal state, in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination, conceived of television as a tool of recognizing and managing the social and political discontent of African Americans. And yet it could not have existed without the civil rights movement, which created inroads for black representation on and access to the means of production of television, particularly that which purported to serve the public. Underwritten by a Ford Foundation grant, Soul! was initially conceived as a black Tonight Show, yet what its producer Ellis Haizlip eventually fashioned was a politically engaged variety show that put music and other performing arts at the forefront and included the audience within its representation.

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