Gayle Wald on “Soul!”
[illustration: Ellis Haizlip talks to Amiri Baraka in a promotional image for “Soul!”]
“Soul!” was a groundbreaking TV variety show that aired on PBS from 1968-73. Originating at WNET in New York, the program featured an astonishingly broad range of black and Latino performers, many of who had never been on TV before.
“Soul!“ presents a fascinating opportunity to examine how a television show attempted to communicate ideas about Black Power to a television audience. Professor Gayle Wald is currently researching and writing book about “Soul!” — its production history, cultural significance, influence, and audience — for Duke University Press’s “Console-ing Passions” series, which focuses on television and film. The book will be the first academic study of “Soul!”, a show which is not currently commercially available (although enterprising DC folks can see episodes at the Library of Congress–and you might even bump into Prof. Wald there). Interest in “Soul!” is building online, and WNET has recently begun making selected episodes available for streaming. Prof. Wald has also contributed an essay to the WNET website, documenting the basic history of the show and its host/producer, Ellis Haizlip, a Washington, DC native. The comments are themselves worthy of reading, just for the testifying.