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The History of Soul! and influence of Host Ellis Haizlip

Saturday, February 7th, 2009
Ashford & Simpson on Soul!

Ashford & Simpson perform on Soul!

It’s 1973. An impressively-dressed Ashford & Simpson launch into “Keep It Comin’,” a radiant soul song about the sustaining power of love. As she sings, Simpson raises her arm above her head, the gesture simultaneously a nod to the rhythm and a revolutionary salute. Both she and Ashford are beaming. As the camera pans back from the singers, it becomes apparent that so, too, is the audience. Heads keep time, feet tap gently; the room is softly alive and buzzing, the massed bodies a single unit, riding the song’s unifying and sustaining groove. “Keep it comin. Keep it comin.’”

The warmth and celebratory air of the “Ashford and Simpson” episode was a hallmark of Soul!. From its September 1968 debut to the final episodes in 1973, Soul! provided a stage for a breathtaking array of black cultural and political luminaries, including many performers who had never before appeared on TV. It did so, moreover, in a variety-show format that mixed “high” culture with “low,” well-known names like Sidney Poitier with (then) up-and-coming figures like Stevie Wonder and poet Nikki Giovanni. Most importantly, Soul! was unapologetic about aiming its diverse and self-critical weekly affirmation of black culture and politics to African American viewers, a group that had previously not had the pleasure of seeing itself widely, or truthfully, represented on television. Read More …

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Soul!: 1971–Miriam Makeba, Muhammad Ali, Nikki Giovanni, the Delfonics

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

We unearthed an episode of the late 60s/early 70s show Soul! from the WNET archives, including a number of songs performed by singer and political activist Miriam Makeba, an in-depth interview with her about her political activities, and a little about her then-husband, Black Panther Stokely Carmichael. In addition, the episode contains poet Nikki Giovanni interviewing Muhammad Ali, and a performance from vocal group the Delfonics.

(originally aired: January 5, 1972) Read More …

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Petey Greene’s Washington

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Petey Greene, one of the strongest characters to ever grace the small screen, was profiled in ‘Adjust Your Color’ (streaming below). See clips of his program and read more about Greene.

Larger than life, ex-convict Petey Greene burst onto the airwaves in the 1960s with raw and uncensored radio and TV shows on racism, poverty, sexuality and drug abuse, awakening Washington, D.C.’s African American community to the power of “telling it like it is.” Read More …

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Black Omnibus, hosted by James Earl Jones

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

In between his Oscar-nominated role as Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope, and as the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars, James Earl Jones hosted a 1973 television series called Black Omnibus. Combining both interview and performance segments, the series, which only lasted 12 episodes, featured an eclectic range of prominent African-American musicians, comedians and other cultural figures. Read More …

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About our ‘Broadcasting While Black’ web project

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

t’s that time of year again–African-American History Month. Read about our ‘Broadcasting While Black’ web project, which covers the early years of black-produced public affairs and arts programs for television, from 1968-on. See all articles and videos in the project, or read more here. Read More …

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