Independent Lens



Premiering in 1968, SOUL! was the first nationally broadcast all-Black variety show on public television, merging artists from the margins with post-Civil Rights Black radical thought. Mr. SOUL! delves into this critical moment in television history, as well as the man who guided it, highlighting a turning point in representation whose impact continues to resonate to this day.

AIRED: February 22, 2021 | 1:25:56

- Place your hands on the television set

in your homes.

You might feel some of the vibrations

that we are attempting to send out tonight.

- Ellis came at a time

when there were so few

positive African-American images on television.

- SOUL! was giving a voice to activists.

- There's nothing, nothing we cannot do.

- That, on national TV, was revolutionary.

- There exists, as far as I know,

no TV program that deals with my culture

so completely and so freely.

announcer: "Mr. SOUL!,"

now only on "Independent Lens."

- ♪ Oh, oh, oh


♪ Oh, oh, oh

♪ Oh, oh

- Today whites have every hour

on television available to them.

The blacks have none.

[cheery orchestral music]

- The following program is brought to you

in living color on NBC.

[brassy music]

- This is an ABC color presentation.

[resonant synth tones]

- CBS presents this program in color.

[acoustic guitar music]

[jazz band music layers over acoustic music]

[music heightens]

[synth music]

- This is N.E.T., the public television network.

[Al Green's "Tired of Being Alone"]


- ♪ Yeah, baby

[cheers and applause]

♪ Oh

♪ I'm so tired of being alone, I'm so tired of on my own ♪

♪ Won't you help me, girl

♪ Soon as you can?

♪ Sometimes I wonder

♪ Baby

♪ If you love me like you say you do ♪

♪ I-I-I-I been thinking about it, yeah ♪

♪ And I've been trying, next to you ♪

♪ Sometimes have to fold my arms, and I say ♪

[brass flourish]

♪ I love you, baby, yeah

[vocalizing] ♪ Yeah

♪ Come on in, baby

♪ You're everything to me

♪ You're everything to me

♪ Everything to me

♪ Oh, yeah

♪ Hey

[cheers and applause]

[solemn music]

- All of you know that your tax dollar and mine

is helping to pay

for the maintaining of segregation.

This money's given to keep you and I second-class citizens

here in this great country.

- Although we are not integrationists,

that doesn't mean that we in any way condone

what those crackers are doing in Birmingham, Alabama.

[cheers and applause]

It was only after the Negroes began to strike back.

It was then that Kennedy called in the army.

- ♪ Everything's all right

crowd: [chanting] Now, now, now, now.

- We had a richness of Black voices

speaking to the problems of our time.

- This is the fruit of what Martin Luther King

and the protest movement had done.

They had awakened a generation.

- If you don't want any trouble,

keep your filthy white hands

off our beautiful Black children.

- ♪ If I don't rise

♪ In the morning

- It just seemed that this was not just foolish racists,

that this was some kind of attack.

You gonna kill the president of the United States.

You gonna kill Malcolm X.

They killed Bobby Kennedy,

and they killed Martin Luther King.

So that whole period was an assault

on any kind of progressive face of America.

- We are determined to raise our people

to their traditional greatness.

The Black community is very conscious

of how it is being oppressed, and it means to change that.

- We needed to reimagine ourselves

on this American landscape.

- ♪ Everything's all right, yeah ♪

- Somebody had to be first...

[cymbal roll]

And it was Ellis Haizlip.

[jazzy notes] - ♪ Ooh

- SOUL! offers Black performers performers a chance to

be meaningful, to be relevant to the Black experience,

to say, "Just present me as a man or a woman

without justifying my Blackness."

- ♪ Yes

- Ellis, to me, was, like, the first citizen of New York

in that New York was absolutely his city.

[Charles Wright's "Express Yourself"]


- I met Ellis in New York in the summer of '64,

and we became friends.

He was doing real art.

He was producing dance. He knew Donnie McKayle.

- And that's where I got to know him,

and through "Black New World,"

touring Europe.

- He knew Alvin Ailey.

He was producing James Baldwin's plays

in Europe.

I knew that television had a place for his thinking

and his artistry.

I got the Boston station,

and I got the Pittsburgh station

and the New York station to do an interconnect

called "Talking Black" on art in the Black communities.

So by now, Ellis had done two shows,

and I think he was really primed to do something big.

- From the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway...

[brassy fanfare]

- Ellis came at a time

when there were so few African-American images

on television

and certainly so few

positive African-American images

on television.

- I'm a Negro.

- You always been a Negro,

or are you just trying to be fashionable?

- When Black folks appeared in the news,

it was as a problem.

- Violent crime rate is up 71%.

- Media had been weaponized

to argue for the inhumanity of African-Americans.

- If you sit here in the central ward of Newark

in the Negro ghetto...

- This tool was used from its very inception

to denigrate human life

as much as it could liberate it.

- By then,

there was an occasional mainstream breakthrough,

when people like Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte

were given variety shows on national television,

but they didn't last very long.

Harry Belafonte would dance

with a white actress on-screen,

and the people in the South would go crazy.

And so they dropped the show.

- The period was filled with great upheaval.

It was an upheaval that was necessary.

- Cities across the country were erupting.

There were riots in Los Angeles,

in Detroit, in Newark.

There were riots popping up all over the place.

- There was a commission that was empaneled--

the Kerner Commission--

to investigate why this uprising had happened.

- The Kerner Commission Report in March of '68 said,

"We are drifting towards two nations,

"one Black and one white,

and the media is largely responsible for this."

- One of the findings of the Kerner Commission

was the sense that African-Americans,

Black people, had no voice

in broad media.

That led to the impetus to say,

"Why don't we use educational TV

"to make sure that those voices

"that had not had access could present their stories,

specifically African-Americans?"

- Produced in New York by WNDT.

- A number of programs were created

for public television.

"Black Journal,"

which was a program that came out of New York;

it was a documentary program.

There were programs like "Say Brother"

that came out of WGBH in Boston.

- Shows like "Like It Is" were public affairs shows.

[drum music]

- Hello, I'm Jim Lowry. - And I'm Roxie Roker.

- Welcome to "Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant."

- Public television,

which had been called educational television,

was less comfortable with live performance

as a way of serving its public

the way that educational TV imagined service

and also imagined its public.

- This is N.E.T.,

the National Educational Television Network.

- Even though I had known this, I said,

"We don't have a single person of color on our staff

"producing anything.

We gotta do something about that."

When I realized that Ellis was beginning to like television

and understood how it could get his message across,

I said, "Look, what do we see on television?

"We see riots. We see poverty.

"We see cameras going through Harlem,

"showing how the garbage isn't picked up.

"I don't hear that from you.

"What I hear is how lively

"the renaissance of the arts are

in Black communities around the country."

- Ellis wanted to legitimate all of the variety

of expression in the arts,

in particular in the Black community,

and that's not "The Tonight Show"--

or, you know, that's not the format.

- I think I came up with the idea

of a Black "Tonight Show" on my own

before I even talked to Ellis,

and Ellis said, "Uh-uh.

"If we're gonna do something

"for the New York Black community,

"it's gotta be a lot deeper,

jazzier, even more controversial."

crowd: Black power! - We want Black power.

crowd: Black power! - We want Black power.

- So we wrote up a proposal for the Ford Foundation,

and we got money very quickly.

Ellis said, "What are we gonna call this show?"

I said, "Got any ideas, fellas?"

He said, "What about 'Soul'?"

I said, "Yeah, if you put an exclamation point after it."

[trumpet blare]

- I never forget when the show started

and he'd strike up the band.

It's just wow, you know.

"Live and in color, the SOUL! show."

- Live and in color from New York City,

SOUL! welcomes...

[lively jazz band music]

- And now,

the very first musical performance of our show,

Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, Patricia Holte,

also known as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.

- ♪ Somewhere

♪ Over

♪ The rainbow

♪ Way, way

♪ Up high

- I mean, look at the first show.

Essentially, we got stars and future stars.

Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles,

yes, they'd been around, but not on television.

- ♪ Why

♪ Oh

♪ Why

♪ Can't

♪ I?

♪ Oh, why, why?

- The first show was--it was-- I don't know how to explain it.

The air was electric.

- ♪ Let me tell you one and all ♪

- We were all very excited

because we knew it was something new and special.

- The very first show starts,

and Novella Nelson's face

is the face of the introductory sequence.

- ♪ To this hole in the wall

- Ellis would bring in people

who he had seen or heard or knew.

Novella Nelson, who had never been on television.

- ♪ It would be heaven for a cat of cold water flat ♪


[cheers and applause]

- And then there was Billy Taylor,

who was known in the jazz world

but not in the television world.

- We were so excited about someone who at last

was beginning to do something that really wasn't done

often enough for us on radio and television

and helping people understand what Black music was about.

Ellis did that very well.

- And the moment that went on that television,

it went boom, you know?

"We bad. Ain't we bad?"

Yeah, you walked down-- you walked down the street,

and you were dripping badness, you know?


- Very quickly,

the word got out about this show.

Just seemed to spread like lightning across the country

that there was this true Black show,

true to the Black experience;

No subjects were taboo,

provided you could put them in decent language;

and that it was our show.

- With this Black priority,

we don't have to become a multipurpose program.

Black people turn us on every week

because they know they will see an undiluted Black show.

- Dr. Poussaint was the psychiatrist from Boston

we had brought in to host the show.

- Ellis asked me if I would be host.

I mean, I wasn't in show business,

but the show would open,

and I had to walk out

like I was doing "The Tonight Show."

- Well, we had a co-host, Loretta Long.

- I'd done a few commercials,

but television was never an option for me

'cause I didn't wanna be Beulah.

I didn't wanna be a maid.

- "The Beulah Show."

- Don't let nobody tell you

that I'm in the market for a husband.

'Course, I would be,

but they don't sell husbands in the market.

- I think Dr. Poussaint was even more nervous

than--than I was.

- I think he did three shows,

and then we asked him as politely as we could

to step down.

Who are we gonna find?

So Ellis had a cousin, Harold,

who was the head of a school in New York.

- I was the headmaster of the New Lincoln School,

a private pre-kindergarten through 12 school.

Ellis said he wanted me to do the show.

So I was moving along in my day job,

often dressed with my blazer and sometimes a bowtie,

and then when it was time to do the show,

my hair came out a bit with my blow comb.

It came out--looked like Moses, sort of.

You know, hair out to here

and around, down to my shoulders,

shirt open, chains, polyester suits, heels,

tiptoeing out of our West End Avenue apartment,

going to do this show down at Channel 13.

And I thought, "My God, what if one of my board members see"--

I--my nightmare was, some little smart-ass kid

would walk up to me and say, "Is that you, Dr. Haizlip?"


- Harold was good,

but at the end of two weeks, he was gone.

And I said to Ellis, "Are you interviewing people?"

He said, "I'm gonna do it."

- I'm Ellis Haizlip. I'm Ellis Haizlip.

Good evening. I'm Ellis Haizlip,

the producer of SOUL!

I'm Ellis Haizlip,

and we are happy to have you with us this evening.

We're doing our first live show tonight,

and, you know, we hope you'll kinda bear with us.

We can go up, or we can go down,

but we hope it runs evenly.

Tonight... - And there was Ellis,

about as bad an interviewer as you can possibly imagine.

His strongest comment would be, "Right on,"

which hosts aren't supposed to do.

- What are they gonna do for us now?

- The poets are gonna do now

a piece they call "Die Nigga!!!"

- Right. All right.

Very good. So we have the Black--

the Last Poets now doing "Die Nigga!!!"

- They're doing "Waking Waters."

- Aww.

First goof on live television.

It's "Waking Waters."

- And we didn't even do it. - Yeah, we didn't do it.


- That's me, co-producer. First goof.

"Waking Waters."

We are as proud of our militants

as we are of the religious element,

and the SOUL! show will reflect that pride.

The Last Poets are gonna do a piece for us now,

and I can only beg that everyone can accept it

in the spirit that it's delivered.

It's called, "Die Nigger."

The Last Poets and "Die Nigger"

- Niggers watched Medgar Evers die.

- Die! Die!

- Niggers watched Emmett Till die.

Niggers watched Bobby Hutton die.

Niggers watched James Chaney die.

Niggers watch niggers die! both: Die! Die! Die!

- Niggers... - Die!

- Niggers... - Die!

- Niggers die! - Die!

- Niggers die! - Die!

Niggers die! - Die, die, die, die.

- Die, niggers, so Black folks can take over!

[cheers and applause]

- Damn, I thought it was pretty risky.

These are guys that never would have been heard

by anyone

if Ellis hadn't been brave enough to do it.

And I gotta tell you,

I was glad I was teaching school

because I figured we were done.

Stick a fork in it. We're done.

- There is just no way that

any other station would've touched that.

- That was important

because we knew that you can't just say,

"I'm Black," and go with that.

You gotta do something.

You gotta show how Black you are

by your actions.

- 'Cause we had, like,

at least six "nigger" poems.

We had "Die Nigger"

and then we had "Niggers Are Scared of Revolution."

- ♪ Niggers are scared of revolution ♪

- So we were definitely

trying to de-niggerize our people.

- That's quite a statement.

You know, and when I was listening

to the Last Poets and that,

I kept watching Barbara and Loretta.

And what were you feeling while that was going on?

- I was thinking,

"It's about time I hear something

besides "blondes have more fun."


- Ellis found a vehicle for himself in the arts

at Howard University in Washington.

- He found himself in the theater.

He didn't come there as a theater person.

The Howard Players created plays

where they trained actors and technicians.

They brought in the theater of the world.

- The Howard had great shows

and the finest artists in the world.

I never missed Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five.

Then we went to the Elks Hall, and there were recitations,

Langston Hughes's poetry and Paul Laurence Dunbar.

We just--we had the best of everything

if you're not thinking about money.

[light jazz music]

- Ellis began going to New York.

He would go to see a show or whatever,

and he would stay for three, four, five days.

- Ellis had some early credits as a producer

and was gaining support for his vision.

This theater thing was going to be the stage

on which Ellis's life would bloom.

- I met Ellis in the summer of '63.

He was the stage manager

of a James Weldon Johnson production

of "Trumpets of the Lord."

Ellis told me that he and a friend

wanted to produce "The Amen Corner"

in the context of a European tour.

While I lived on Sheridan Square

and Ellis would come up frequently in the evenings,

I was also meeting with James Baldwin

from time to time.

Jimmy and Ellis didn't perhaps get along

terribly well at first

because they both were extreme personalities.

But once they started working together on "The Amen Corner,"

they got along very well and worked together very well.

Jimmy was very pleased with Ellis's ideas.

They became close friends during the tour.


- And I often wondered,

"How does he know all these people?"

And they knew him and they loved him,

and it wasn't so much what he would do for them

as the relationship that he had developed with them,

which they treasured.

- Ellis had this black book, thick notebook,

and he'd open up that book, and magic would come out of it.

- Do you have any joy in--

any particular joy that overrides any other

in anything that you've done, James?

- No, the best book--

a writer's best book is his next book.

You know? I mean that.

I'm not--I'm not joking. - Hey, we're running short.

What are we gonna do about the O' Jays?

- The first season of 39 shows,

they were all live,

so no one knew what was gonna be on them

except Ellis and the staff.

- ♪ Yes, nobody loves me

♪ Nobody seems to care

♪ Speaking of worries and sorrow, darling ♪

♪ You know I've had my share


- The FCC couldn't stop you. No one can interrupt.

There was no seven-second delay.

You could do anything you wanted.

- I think one of the mostbeautiful things is that

there's a unity among us allbecause we're all Black,

and that kind of souland that device goes together.

You agree, Marion? - Oh, yes, I agree.

- My recollection of the first year

is cemented forever

with Wilson Pickett and Marion Williams

in the last show of the year together.

- ♪ Oh, happy day - ♪ Oh, happy day

- ♪ Oh, happy day - ♪ Oh, happy day

- It was the most glorious thing,

and Odetta was in the audience.

No one had known it until then, and she gets up,

and she starts dancing.

The whole audience is dancing.

- ♪ Whoo

♪ It's everywhere

♪ Oh, happy day - ♪ Oh, happy day

- ♪ When I get to heaven - ♪ Oh, happy day

- My fellow Americans,

I ask you to share with me today

the majesty of this moment.

- Nixon becomes president in 1969,

and the Nixon administration is quite paranoid

about the ways that it is covered by the media.

- What kind of a nation we will be

is ours as to determine.

I know the heart of America is good.

[tense music]

- Nixon sees the media as a liberal force

opposed to the president's policies and administration.

SOUL! is broadcasting in a moment when there is,

from the highest levels, hostility

to liberal political expression on television.

- We've actually presented Black poets

from the very beginning of SOUL!

and that has been revolutionary.

Just name one other consistent TV outlet

for those Black poets who have been playing such a major role

in helping Black people deal with today's reality.

[cheers and applause]

- Ever been kidnapped by a poet?

If I were a poet, I'd kidnap you,

put you in my phrases, and meter you to Jones Beach

or maybe Coney Island or maybe just to my house,

lyric you in lilacs, dash you in the rain,

blend into the beach to complement my see.

Play the lyre for you, ode you with my love song.

Anything to win you.

Wrap you in the red-black-green,

show you off to Mama, yeah.

If I were a poet, I'd kidnap you. Hi.

[cheers and applause]

- This was all emerging.

It was a new world,

and Ellis was a-- was a gardener,

and he cultivated all of these people.

- That's where the genius of Ellis,

I think, was the most apparent.

He had an eye

for people who were absolutely bound

to be successful in this country

and who had not yet been discovered,

but Ellis had seen them, had witnessed them,

had experienced them, and put them

right there in front.

[cheers and applause] - Yeah!

- I know we don't normally get a chance to sing our own songs,

and we're gonna do this particular number.

singers: [soulfully] ♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh

♪ Ooh, ooh

♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh - ♪ Oh, yeah

singers: ♪ Ooh - ♪ Ooh

singers: ♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh - ♪ Mm

singers: ♪ Ooh, hey

- When we first met Ellis Haizlip, we were young.

We were babies. [both laugh]

But he saw something in us.

- He knew we were songwriters, and he said,

"I want you to come on the show,

"and I want you to illustrate some of your songs,

and I want you"--

- 'Cause we weren't performersat all.

- Definitely not me.

- We were, like, so nervous

'cause it was, like, brand-new to us,

and all the planning

and how we picked the singers from the church and...

- Yeah.

- We got the musicians together and...

- Of course, we tried to kill it.

- ♪ Reach out and touch

[cheers and applause] ♪ Somebody's hand

♪ Make this world a better place ♪

♪ If you can

- ♪ Reach out and touch

♪ Somebody's hand

♪ Make this world a better place ♪

♪ If you can

- ♪ Just try

- I don't know where we would be

if it wasn't for Ellis Haizlip. I mean, he put--

- There would not be an Ashfordand Simpson without SOUL!

- He loved our music, and he said,

"It's gonna be on SOUL!

And that was what was so beautiful

about the way he respected our music.

- And what he saw in us

that we hadn't yet seen in ourselves.

[cheers and applause]

[upbeat jazz music]

- He could see you in places

that you couldn't see yourself,

and Ellis was a "race man"

in a way.

That was the old-time--

not that he had any disdain for other races,

but that he was a strong supporter

of what we could do

and seeing to it

that our story was being told by our people.

That's what he did on SOUL!

He brought out the people

who could tell the story as artists.

- Hello, I'm Ellis Haizlip, the producer of SOUL!

And we're very happy to have Imamu Amiri Baraka.

He is one of the leading Black voices of this time.

- ♪ It's Nation Time

Boo, boo!

Boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo.


Hey, ah!

Black Jesus, nigga, come out and strike.

Come out and strike...

It became clear to me that it was time

that we speak directly to what was going on

rather than bite our tongue or seem diplomatic,

that it was time to say, "All this stuff is wrong,

and you need to stop it, or we gonna stop you,"

and there was a whole group of people,

young people getting inflamed

by the movement reaching new heights.

That was the whole rise

in the Black arts movement in Harlem.

We said we wanted an art that was culturally Black.

We wanted a art that was not just to titillate

the minds of the elite,

but we wanted the art that would contribute

to the liberation of Black people.

Get up, nigga. Get up.

It's Nation Time.

[cheers and applause]

That poem became

kind of an anthemic pronouncement

of national consciousness, really asking,

"It's time for us to think specifically about Black people

as a nation of people."

- ♪ To the beat, huh?

- The death of Malcolm X,

in many ways, propelled the Black arts movement.

Malcolm had left the Nation of Islam

and was forming a lot of coalitions,

really looking much more globally

and connecting the struggle here

with struggles for independence abroad,

and the Black arts movement

was a way of popularizing the ideas of Blackness

and really exploring those ideas

and trying to define what it meant

to be Black in this country,

what it meant to be Black on this planet.

- The primary purpose of SOUL!

is neither to educate nor to entertain,

but to give people a chance to share

in the Black experience.

The show must do that first.

Then it can educate and entertain.

SOUL! makes Blacks visible in a society

where they have been largely invisible.

[percussive music]

I think I can suggest to you

that if you would place your hands

on the television set in your homes,

you might feel some of the vibrations

that we are attempting to send out tonight.

I hope you will be able to deal with it

because it will be beautiful.

So why don't we get together and have a warm reception

as we welcome again to SOUL! Ms. Barbara Ann Teer.

- My mom, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer,

she thought that theater was a means to galvanize folks

That day on SOUL! was our own church,

for us, by us, restorative in all forms.

- Just relax

and groove with your Blackness.

- It was an incredible sight

to invite people into this complete and utter love affair

with your Blackness,

and there were the most beautiful Black folks

in the audience

sitting forward in their seats,

holding incense, reaching out to one another,

and I think that level of Black care,

Black love, Black sister- and brotherhood

was something that, in and of itself,

on national TV, was revolutionary.

- Thank god he found that outlet

that allowed Channel 13

to show us in all our beauty and all our eccentricity,

all of our opulence and grandeur, you know?

And so the rest of the world could see what--

you know, what-- who are these people

who have been burdened by so much

and yet sing and carry on and got flair and got style?

- ♪ When she lets you fall

♪ You're like a diamond

♪ But she treats you like glass ♪

♪ Yet you beg her to love you

♪ But me, you don't ask

♪ If I were your woman - ♪ If you were my woman

- ♪ If I were your woman - ♪ If you were my woman

- ♪ If I were your woman - ♪ If you were my woman

- ♪ Here's what I'd do

♪ I'd never, no, no, stop loving you ♪

- There were so many women in his life.

He loved their energy and creativity and art.

- Ellis Haizlip understood that it was just an assumption

that there were interesting women

doing interesting things,

and he had Toni Morrison

when she had just published her first novel.

He provided incredible opportunities for Black women

professionally at all levels.

He had a mostly female production staff.

I don't know if national TV shows have that.

- We had to put Black women back on a stage,

but the whole movement was sexist.

The NAACP was sexist.

The movement that Martin led was sexist.

Everything was sexist, make no mistake about it.

America was homophobic and sexist.

It wasn't just the Black arts.

And the thing that we did as women

is that we began to break it down.

- It's SOUL! and this is your announcer, Gary Byrd.

Tonight on SOUL! we get a little closer

to the sisters

as SOUL! salutes the Black woman.

- Yeah, I don't think poetry existed actively.

I mean, there was the Beat Generation,

but on television, ever,

not ever until SOUL! where you could have a show

that was just dedicated to poets.

- Brother Ellis was going to bring

Black women to the forefront.

- Take my share of soul food.

I do not wish to taste of pig,

of either gut or grunt from bowel or jaw.

- Right on. - Right on.

- I want caviar. [laughter and cheers]

Shrimp soufflé,

sherry, champagne,

and not because these are the whites' domains

but because I'm entitled, for I've been VD'd enough,

TB'd enough, hoe-cake-fed, knock knee'd enough,

spindly led bloodhound tree'd enough

to eat high on the hog. I've been hired last...

- You know, I really do think that Brother Ellis

did more for poetry on television,

more than any other show on television,

yesterday, today, and probably tomorrow.

- ♪ Black lovers must live

♪ Push against the devils of this world ♪

♪ Against the creeping whiteness of they own minds ♪

I am yo' woman, my man,

and Black women...

♪ They deal in babies

♪ And sweet Black kisses

And nights that multiply by twos.

- What he was doing was simply changing--

every night, he was on that program,

changing someone's mind about Black folks...

[playing solemn piano melody]

About Black culture,

about what it meant to be Black in America, right?

And what people, young people were doing in America

to effect change, but he was also wise enough

to know that he was changing white folks too.

[soft piano music]

- ♪ Glory, glory

♪ Hallelujah

♪ When I lay my burden down

- To be on SOUL! with such extraordinary women

celebrating Black women

was one of the great honors of my life.

- ♪ When I lay my

♪ Burden down

♪ I'm gonna meet my

- When Sister Carmen danced... - ♪ Dear old mother

- Time stopped in that studio.

- ♪ When I lay my

- She came out and she'd dance

and you'd close your eyes,

and you leaned back on your eyes,

and you could see her moving inside your bloodstream.

- This piece, "Come Sunday,"

is absolutely one of my favorites.

It was choreographed by my husband,

Geoffrey Holder, just in honor of Odetta

because we loved her so much.

- ♪ Joshua fought the battle of Jericho ♪

♪ And them walls come a-tumbling down ♪

- You know, if it touches your soul, you can dance.

- ♪ Oh, them walls

♪ Come a-tumbling

♪ Down

[soft music]

- Ellis grew up in Washington.

There were four children,

Doris, Ellis, Janet, and Lionel Haizlip.

Seems like they had a very idyllic childhood,

and Ellis was always the center of attention.

Ellis would put on dramatic productions

with the neighborhood children in their yard

at the house on Sheriff Road.

He was the performer, the leader, the producer,

the one with the ideas and the creativity.

- My mother died when I was 17 years old.

It was a great tragedy in my life,

but I often remember her voice calling,

"Come on, children.

Let's have hot milk cake before dinner,"

and there she'd be,

stirring up this little batter,

all of us around

the kitchen table together

at the end of a tired day.

- After Ellis's mother died,

my mother became almost a surrogate for Ellis.

His father was very, very, very religious

and very closed in.

There were strictures that were to be observed

in terms of appropriate dress, and you didn't dance.

Well, that was just not Ellis. It just wasn't.

With Ellis spending increasingly more time

at our house rather than his own,

I came to know that Ellis was different.

The term "gay" was not in vogue at that time.

You know, you were effeminate or, you know,

you had these different interests.

You were just different, and...

but nobody talked about it.

The coded word from Uncle Ellis's father was,

"Boy, you need to get serious and get a job.

"You should not let this spirit that's coming out of you--

you should not let it come forward,"

and I knew that's what he meant.

I didn't know that he was saying,

"You can't be gay. You can't be a sissy.

"You can't be feminine.

"You need to be-- you need to exhibit

masculine characteristics."

That really hurt me a lot


Even then I knew

that Ellis was a very special person

and that he needed a nourishing environment

rather than a critical one.

[soulful music]

Would you look at that?

This is it.

Oh, I'd almost like to put my arms around it

and say, "Yeah, this is it."

This was us.

This was where Ellis started his life on this planet.

- Ellis had an appreciation for Black performance

that I think was shaped

by his experience in the church.

There is a basic spirituality

that perhaps surfaces

in the choice of SOUL! gospel music,

and the spirituals and the poetry

and the presentation of the church.

Ellis was steeped in that.

- ♪ How glad I am God laid his hands on me ♪

♪ Thank you, Lord, Thank you, Lord ♪

♪ Thank you for touching me, Lord ♪

♪ Thank you, Lord

[energetic piano music]

♪ When I touch a piano, mm

[cheers and applause]

♪ I'm giving God the praise

- My religion is the gospel song

rather than the gospel,

the gospel according to song.

- ♪ Throughout

♪ My earthly

♪ My-y-y-y earthly

♪ Day, yeah

♪ Hey, yeah

♪ Yeah

- I wanted to do my poetry gospel

because I'm Black American.

I grew up in the Baptist Church,

so I wanted to do something to that music.

That's the music in my head,

and Ellis knew Lenny Diggs.

Lenny lived in Harlem,

so we went up and met the choir,

and I think everybody was nervous,

and he said, "Must Jesus bear the cross alone?"

and somebody said, "Yeah, let Jesus,"

and I thought, "I love this choir."

- ♪ Oh, the billows

♪ You see the billows

♪ Yeah

♪ Are tossing high

♪ Oh, thank you, Jesus

♪ Lord, the sky

♪ The sky is o'er shadowed, shadowed ♪

♪ With so much blackness

♪ Oh, thank the Lord

- I mean, who would have thought

that you could make gospel music

with modern poetry

and that it would be something

that people could actually listen to?

- ♪ Lord, we need help tonight ♪

- In the beginning was the word,

and the word was "death," and the word was "nigger,"

and the word was, "Death to all niggers,"

and the word was, "Death to all life,"

and the word was,

"Death to all peace, be still."

Noah packing his wife and kiddies up for a holiday,

row, row, row your boat,

but why'd you leave the unicorns, Noah, huh?

Why'd you leave them

while our Black Madonna stood there,

18 feet high,

listening to the rumblings of peace--

be still, be still.

choir: ♪ Peace, peace

- Because of the New York Community Choir

and because it was gospel choir,

we got played on gospel radio.

But because it was me, we got played on normal radio.

It wasn't called the spoken word then.

If it had been spoken word, I would have a Grammy.

See, somebody owes me a Grammy.

[cheers and applause]

- He wanted to present those wonderful poets,

Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou,

but dance was one of his main thrusts.

- And he was so in tunewith dance.

He was quietly taking care of the business

that would then make you look great.

- That was the beginning of a long relationship

with dance and camera.

- Ellis and Stan called me and said,

"Can you do something?

Because we want a little dance in 'You and I.'"

So I got two dancers,

that was Gary DeLoatch and Eleanor McCoy,

to come down to the studio, unrehearsed,

and we did it on the spot,

and he used it in a segment of that dance.

It involved romantic turns and lifts and so forth

that would be used

in the interlude in Stevie Wonder's song.

- ♪ You're in my mind

♪ You know that you'll stay here always ♪

- SOUL! was one of the only shows

that presented Black dance,

and Ellis was certainly very aware of the emerging

as well as the seasoned choreographers.

- ♪ You and I

♪ You and I

♪ In my mind

♪ We can conquer the world

[cheers and applause]

♪ And love

♪ You and I

♪ You and I

♪ You and I

[soft piano ballad]

♪ Oh

♪ You and I

[cheers and applause]

- You've had such a success at what I consider

a very early age.

First maybe you ought to tell the audience how old you are.

Is that cool?

- 25. - 25?

- 25.

- How long have you been singing?

- I've been singing

since I was about eightor nine.

♪ Loving you, baby

Oh, see there?

You don't wanna mess with that do you.



- Here was Al Green up here

singing about relationships,

so they cut away to sisters in the audience.

You could just see what was going on behind their eyes.

- ♪ Baby, baby, baby

♪ Let me say

♪ I

♪ I'm so in love with you

Thank you. [laughs]

♪ Whatever you want to do, mm

♪ Is all right with me

Thank you.

♪ Oh, 'cause you make me feel

- Ellis Haizlip's ability

to really make everything cohesive,

I mean, there was so much great visual style

to the show.

- ♪ It's all I see

♪ Oh

♪ Let's

♪ Let's stay together

- That just didn't exist anywhere else

in media at the time.

Like, when Al Green is singing,

that backdrop, this multicolored,

abstract expressionist,

looked like something off "Star Trek."

These kind of glowing lights were going on and off,

but then there's also these shots,

they did from just the back of the room

where it's just a sea of afros.

Like, a sea of just big, bulbous afros,

and you'd think about the afro being

the ultimate kinda statement of follicle militancy, right?

- ♪ Wow, wow

♪ Hey

- Ellis already knew

that Black culture was world culture.

[percussive music]

Ellis already knew that Black culture led.

It didn't pull.

That program was so beyond its time

that it was in time.

[energetic music]


[cheers and applause]

- Ellis was a product of his own creation.

- Unlike other so-called variety shows,

Ellis Haizlip was an important personality,

but he was not at the center,

even as a charismatic and beloved figure.

The show was not about him

the way that "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson"

was about Johnny Carson.

- He was one of the great listeners.

No one had to brief him on what needed to be asked.

No one had to brief him on what was gonna go on.

In a sense, he was the perfect host.

- I feel that R&B music forms the floor for Black pride.

[Kool & The Gang's "Chocolate Buttermilk"]


- Kool & The Gang was on SOUL!

and Ellis Haizlip,

he was the smoothest guy that we had met at the time.

That was our first television show,

and that gave us a whole lot of exposure.

We played "Who's Gonna Take the Weight"

and "Chocolate Buttermilk."

That was a favorite at the time.

Yeah, we had those crazy outfits,

all of that kind of dress.

It was important to look your best on TV.

[Kool & the Gang's "Let the Music Take Your Mind"]

- ♪ Yow!

[upbeat music]

We had our hair styled by the stylist at that time.

Her name was Diane.

It was the most perfect afro cut

I have ever had in my life.

- When we looked at each other, it was like, "Wow.

Who's that?"

- Ellis had a wonderful hairdresser, Diane.

She did all our hair.

You know, at that time, we were all wearing meticulous afros.

- The whole '70s was just a time to boogie.

It was a time to get down, so we did.


- It was about SOUL!

And not "Soul Train." This is SOUL!

- In the midst of all of this, Ellis got me into TV.

He was the first person who allowed me

to produce my own show on television,

and it was a hit.

No one had ever given me

the opportunity to do my talent.

No one had ever done that.

[percussive music]

Driving Latin rhythms coming out of candy store jukeboxes,

trumpets, trumpets, trumpets,

big brass mashed with sultry fungi sprouts,

palm trees in the middle of frozen streets,

rhythms, rhythms, rhythms, counter-rhythms, poly-rhythms.

Watusi, watusi, watusi, watusi.

It worked out very well,

and I end the segment by saying...

Brothers and sisters,

I have great pleasure in introducing to you tonight

Mr. Tito Puente!


[Latin jazz music]

- It's SOUL!

Tonight's show is entitled "Shades of SOUL: Part One:"

Varieties of the Black and Brown Experience.

[cheers and applause]

- Ellis was always looking for the edge

in the conversations that he had

between writers and poets.


- Ellis said, "If you could do anything,

what would you like to do?" and I said, "That's too easy.

I'd love to talk to Jimmy Baldwin."

He said, "I know Jimmy."

Well, Baldwin said to Ellis, "You know, I'd love to do it,

but I don't have time to come to the United States,"

and Ellis said, "How about London?"

- Here was James Baldwin on national television

in a two-hour special

being interviewed by Nikki Giovanni,

and here was Baldwin, the homosexual poet...

You know, those two words,

you mentioned them in the commercial stations,

and people go running from the room.

Here was this icon of American literature,

forget Black literature, of American literature

being interviewed by an iconic poet.

- When our game starts running, and after all--

after all, baby,

we have survived the roughest game

in the history of the world.

- Yeah. - You know, we really have.

No matter what we say against ourselves, you know,

no matter what our limits and hang-ups are,

you know, we have come through some--

we have come through something, you know?

And if we can get this far, we can get further, you know,

and we got this far by means which no one understands,

including you and me.

We're only beginning to apprehend it,

and you're a poet precisely because

you were beginning to apprehend it

and put into a form, you know,

which will be useful for your kid

and his kid, you know, and for the world.

- The Brits shot it. It was really funny.

You know, Jimmy talked with his hands, as do I,

and so there was a lot of time they were shooting our hands.

We did not have an American director,

who would have shot our faces.

- 'Cause we're not obliged

to accept the world's definitions.

We gotta make our own definitions

and begin to rule the world that way.

Because kids, white and Black,

cannot use what they have been given, you know?

- And they're rejecting it. - They're rejecting it.

Nobody wants to become the president of Pan Am

or the governor of California or a Spiro T. Agnew.

The kids want to live.

- What I most loved

about the James Baldwin- Nikki Giovanni episode

is you could see James Baldwin's fire,

which of course you get on the pages

of anything he writes,

but the intonation, all the ways in which

he conveys and articulates his words with his whole body,

you get that, but you also get

this kind of mentorship that he's offering her.

- A Black writer is still a freak, you know?

A dancing dog.

We don't yet exist

in the imagination of this century,

and we cannot afford to play games.

There's too much at stake.

- But there has to be a way to do what we do and survive,

which is, to me, what seems to be missing.

- Sweetheart, sweetheart,

our ancestors taught us how to do that.

We have survived until now.

- Our job is to present Black culture,

and R&B music is a vital part of that.

Entertainment can be a deep business.

It's not all just finger-popping time.

We give exposure to Black artists of all types,

people whom you practically never see on white TV,

and I feel good about what we're doing.


- There was a lot of music on television.

On SOUL! there were several groups

that had their first TV experience,

and for most of 'em it was their first

actual live performing on television.

- And here now, the elements of the universe,

Earth, Wind & Fire.

[cheers and applause]

[energetic kalimba music]

- Earth, Wind & Fire, it was a big deal for them.

Maurice was real excited

because he was actually gonna be

performing live on television,

and he knew the show was gonna show nationally.

[upbeat R&B music]

- We copied the idea from Earth, Wind & Fire

of playing without playing.


[cheers and applause]

- And SOUL! was

an important part of my cultural daily intake.

[upbeat jingle]

- We always speak of ourselves as sons and daughters of kings.

So we have a right to refer to ourselves as Your Highness,

but when we say "highness" now in our communities,

we're not talking about royalty,

so this is called "Bad News for Your Highness."

It's a song to deposed kings.

- Well, you know, that was such a common topic

because, remember, dope--

the dope thing was just out to lunch.

- Dope is [bleep].

[bleep] eater.

Put [bleep] in your arm,

in your mama's tears.

When they drag you out a hallway

and Sheldon Baloney giggles about it,

what difference do it make?

Stay high, sucker chump.

Yeah, dope is [bleep].

Yeah, stay high, sucker chump.

- The president of the station said,

"Well, this is gonna get taken off the air,"

and Ellis said, "Let 'em take it off."

I said, "Then you're gonna rob the audience

"of hearing some great poetry

because you won't let me bleep it."

He said, "All right, bleep it, but bleep it loud."

- Don't be [bleep] [bleep] [bleep].

Put [bleep] in your arm, in your mama's tears.

[steady beep]

- My first appearance on SOUL! was in 1971.

I was a dancer.

I danced with Ailey,

but I was growing up in a political world,

and I had created a dance called Poppy,

which was very topical because it dealt with drugs.

The metaphor come to life

was this spider character that I had created,

and I illustrated through several vignettes

what heroin can do to a life.



Ellis saw this dance and was really taken by it

because he dealt with social issues.

- America's public enemy number one in the United States

is drug abuse.

In order to fight and defeat this enemy,

it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive.

- Ellis Haizlip, he did not mind controversy.

I mean, he had Minister Farrakhan

on his show.

- In the interview with Minister Louis Farrakhan,

he raises the issue of homosexuality,

but he also lets Minister Farrakhan speak.

- I mean, who else would have had Minister Farrakhan

at the time that he was being reviled in the United States?

Ellis was a openly gay male.

He knew the homophobia of the Nation of Islam,

and he sat right beside him

and asked him some incisive questions.

- Very recently, and this probably gets back

to the morality or immorality,

we have seen quite a few incidents

where prisoners--and I think it's a known fact

that quite a few of the people

who had been brought to the Nation of Islam

have discovered their righteousness

while incarcerated in a prison,

and one of the things that most males and,

now I understand from the news that's coming out,

a lot of females have to deal with

is homosexual relations in prisons.

How can they serve the Nation of Islam,

and does the fact that a man is a homosexual

have anything to do that would negate

his coming into the Nation

and being dealt with by the Nation of Islam?

- I think that when one looks at that episode,

you're seeing Ellis taking Farrakhan to task

in terms of sexual orientation

and not sweeping it under the rug,

and Farrakhan, from what I could glean,

was--responded with a sermon.

- Let me say this, my dear brother,

and to you in our viewing audience.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has been raised up by Allah

not to condemn our people,

but to reclaim

the fallen Black man of America.

- Farrakhan literally-- it's, like, 4 1/2 minutes,

I've timed it--you know, kind of, like, canned speech.

The audience loves it.

It's an offensive speech in many ways.

- And we will take this one but leave this one off.

Who are we to pass that kind of judgment

on our brothers and sisters?

We know the question should be asked,

whence came this perversion

or this deviation?

- And he was also, you know, preaching to the choir

because he had all his folks there, you know,

and the Nation of Islam was in the audience,

which was very interesting

'cause there was that call and response.

- Man by nature is inclined to

and leans toward the female.

[crowd murmurs] - Right.

- And the female by nature leans toward the male.

[crowd murmurs] - Yes, sir.

- Now, we wanna know, whence came this deviation?

Whence came this perversion? [cheers and applause]

- And after that Ellis Haizlip says,

"You're amazing," and I don't think he's saying,

"You're amazing 'cause I think what you're saying is right."

"You're amazing 'cause look at the power

"with which you speak.

"Look at how you rally.

Look how you make people feel,"

and there's something valuable about that.

- I get the sense that Ellis did not need him--

his approval, you know, to be himself,

and I think that Ellis knew that sexuality was fluid,


and, you know, what he got from Farrakhan

was Farrakhan's conceding that,

you know, all will be accepted,

you know, that even though we're gonna try to change you,

whether or not they're gonna change someone,

you know, that's a question,

but he did get Farrakhan to articulate

and embrace

same-gender-loving women and men,

and that was really powerful on, you know, television,

national television and public television, yeah.

[cheers and applause]

- Ellis was the most effective,

insidious revolutionary that I have ever met.

- Protest comes in various forms,

marching, sitting in, fasting, fighting,

I mean, getting down with it.

Protest can be a brick hurtling through some dumb window,

and it can be the simple refusal to participate

in some inhuman but popular act.

- ♪ Sometimes

♪ I feel

♪ Like a motherless child

[rolling drum]

♪ Sometimes

♪ I feel

- Individualism is a luxury that we can no longer afford!

- The definition of Black power is

the coming together of Black people

to fight for their liberation

by any means necessary.

- ♪ Sometimes

♪ I feel

♪ Like a motherless child

- But I have news for you.

This time, there's a difference.

This time, we're going to win!

[cheers and applause]

Think of America.

We haven't had a moment of peace at all.

We've seen crime go up at astronomical rates,

and we will do what they have not done

and provide the peace that Americans want.

- The Black Panther Party overlooks nothing,

is afraid of nothing, and is able to resolve

a major contradiction of our time.

- A necessity for order

or law and order,

Now that's just really a code word for racism.

- You asked me,

you know, whether I approve of violence.

I mean, that just doesn't make any sense at all.

- Order without progress is tyranny.

You cannot have order without progress

in a free society.

Eventually there'll be an explosion.

- This FBI agent in California had said,

"The young Negroes want something to be proud of."

- My fellow Americans, we're going to win

because our cause is right.

- "But they need to know

"if they become revolutionaries,

they'll be dead revolutionaries."

- This, I say to you tonight,

is the real voice of America.

- I just find it incredible because what it means is that

the person who's asking that question has

absolutely no idea what Black people have gone through,

what Black people have experienced in this country

since the time the first Black person was kidnapped

from the shores of Africa.

- ♪ Like I'm almost

♪ Done

choir: ♪ A long

♪ Way

♪ From

♪ Home

- Thank you. Thank you.

I'm Ellis Haizlip,

and we are happy to have you with us this evening.

We're also happy to have with us the mother

of the late George Jackson,

and we say only the body of George Jackson is gone

because the spirit of George Jackson lives on.

May we welcome Mrs. Georgia Jackson

to New York and SOUL!

- Ellis's approach was to find the humanity of George Jackson

through his mother,

and his mother had such composure.

She spoke well. She humanized her son.

- Mrs. Jackson, George wrote of you,

and he said that you were

the perfect revolutionary mother,

and I wonder,when did you first become,

to use a phrase,radicalized against the system?

- I don't consider myself radical.

I don't consider myself militant.

That's a name that is put on all the people in America

who speak up for their own rights

and who try to point out the injustices

that go on in this country.

You're immediately named a radical or a militant

or a revolutionary or any other term

that they choose to hang on you,

but I consider myself a Black American mother

fighting for justice for all Black Americans

and all oppressed people all over the world.

[cheers and applause]

- He did the same thing with Malcolm X

by humanizing Malcolm X

through Betty Shabazz's interview.

- Some people thought of Betty Shabazz

as being a kind of celebrity, but Ellis realized,

"Here's a woman whose husband has been assassinated,

"does not necessarily have the infrastructure

"of, you know, the Nation of Islam

or any other organization to watch over her."

He really thought about, "How do we protect this woman,

"and how do we support the martyrs

and the spouses of martyrs in the freedom struggle?"

- SOUL! was giving a voice, TV exposure,

to people who were activists, revolutionaries.

I was Eldridge's wife,

but I was also his communications secretary.

The FBI was very, very disturbed by that.

I ended up on SOUL! to restore an understanding

of what the Black Panther party was really about.

- Sitting with me now is a sister

who is deeply involved in what I should call

"Right On" revolutionary business.

She is a member of the Revolutionary People's

Communications Network.

Kathleen Cleaver is known to most of you

as the wife of Brother Eldridge Cleaver.

Welcome to SOUL! , Kathleen. - Thank you, man.

- Kathleen, given that you have been in the struggle

since 1964, have two kids,

do you think you will remain in the struggle

for the rest of your life, you know, in the vanguard or--

- I don't think I have any alternative at this point,

even if I tried,

even if I had any desire to withdraw.

This was serious business.

Our lives were at stake.

We were being threatened,

and the police were very hostile to us.

It's a matter of life and death.

You hope you'll live, but there is no guarantee.

- With all of my sense of early love

and understanding at home,

it took the rebellion of Black people

to create an atmosphere

in which I could function at all,

and so remembering all of those

who fought for liberation and for my freedom,

that's where my priorities are.

- Ellis was seditious, you know?

You know, no one's ever said that about him.

People will say things like, "Oh, he had a great vision,

and he was a nice middle-class man,"

but he was seditious.

That whole program was seditious.

- SOUL! was undiluted.

It was absolutely in your face,

and that was its value and also its undoing.


- Now I gotta go to Vietnam.

They want me to go to Vietnam

to shoot some Black folks that never lynched me,

never called me "nigger," never put no dog on me,

never assassinated my leaders.

I'm fighting to free him,

and my mama ain't free in Louisville,

so since I gotta die, just let me die here, now.

[cheers and applause]

- It wasan evolutionary process.

We grew out of Stepin' Fetchit.

We grewout of Mantan Moreland.

Out of us will come yetdirectors and producers

who will haveinfinitely more freedom.

This freedom that we have

and the freedomthat they will have

comes from the strength

that has been husbanded nowin the Black community

and is being feltpolitically, economically,

and philosophicallythroughout the land.

- Many people assume that with material success

comes a certain kind of absolute power,

and I dare say that there's no such a thing.

If you are Black in America, you are Black in America.

- Thank you.

With that, I--


[soft music]

- When Ellis loved you, he really loved you.

- Ellis was very much himself,

as a gay man or two-spirited

or however you wanna say it.

That was his magic,

being himself and really allowing

for the creation of a different type of family.

He didn't leave his family like a lot of LGBT folks

of that generation might have done.

He embraced that family,

even if there might have been complexities

in terms of acceptance,

but he also was creating his family

and creating this large community

that he was also feeding,

and he also saw love,

in many ways,

like James Baldwin or Bayard Rustin.

It was a love that was beyond the romantic.

It was this vast love,

and everything came from that with Ellis.

- And now we return to Stevie Wonder.

- When Stevie was there, he was so at home.

We couldn't get him off the stage,

like when he did "Superstition."

He just went on and on and on and on and on.

- The artist and the audience share in a real experience.

It's a love exchange.

The Black performers are more at ease

with the Black audience

and are sensitive to its vibrations,

so we get a better show.

- ♪ Very superstitious

♪ Writing's on the wall

♪ Very superstitious

- We ran out of tape, and he just went on forever.

I think we might have even changed the reels,

those big 2-inch reels,

and started recording again in the same song.

The place went crazy,

and he could just feel the energy.

He fed off of it.

- Like, it's one thing to watch Stevie Wonder,

but my favorite thing is

watching the audience watch Stevie Wonder.

- ♪ When you believe in things you don't understand ♪

♪ Then you suffer

♪ Superstition ain't the way

♪ Hey, hey, hey

[funky R&B music]

- Ellis said to me,

"They're canceling our series."

I said, "Why?"

He said, "Well, you know."

I said, "Ellis, tell me what you've heard."

He said, "Well, during these years,

"we've had certain complaints about angry Black poetry,

"too much politics,

"or how the music is filled with dirty words,

"and we've heard that stations haven't aired the show.

"They just take it off 'cause they think

the content's too Black."

I don't know how anything can be too Black

if it's a show for Black people,

but never mind.

- ♪ When all the dark clouds

♪ Roll away

I'm only interested in saying the truth,

because nothing could beat that,

so I'll ne--if I say the truth

and it hurts,

I can't help that

because I have to say the truth.

- Again, it is a correct interpretation of our history

to let them know, hey, brother, you're no Afro-American.

Ain't no such thing. You're an African.

And your society, your history don't begin 400 years.

Your history begins millions and millions and millions

and millions of years ago!

While the white boy was in the caves,

your fathers were building pyramids.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is falling.

The Eiffel Tower is falling.

The Pyramids are standing strong.

You built them, brother.

Get up and work. You're a scientific people.

Build. Build for your people. Don't sit down.

There is nothing, nothing we cannot do.

All we got to do,

as the Honorable Marcus Garvey said, is

get up and do it.

Well, mighty race, up now. You're a mighty race.

- I just had images of Blacks all around the country saying,

"Yes, yes, tell him! Yes!"

and others plotting to get the show off the air

because of just what they suspected

was the response of the Black community.

- I have never been aggressive

about the treatment that SOUL! has received

in the past with regard to its being funded

and subsequently projected to the public

as a positive and proud production

of Channel 13.


I am more than concerned about the turn of events.

- Ellis says, "Well, we better start a campaign."

I said, "What kind of a campaign?"

- We're trying to create programs of Black love,

of Black strength, of Black encouragement,

and we hope that you agree with what's going down.

- Yes, sir!

- And if you do agree, write us.

If you don't agree, write us.

We just need to hear from you.

Our address is SOUL!,

304 West 58th Street,

New York City, 10019.

We need your help. We need your support.

We need your love. We need your disagreement.

We just need to hear from you.

- The letters started coming in.

They were fantastic,

thousands of letters from all walks of life,

all kinds of people.

One guy said, "I'm not Black,

but that show has got it as far as I'm concerned."

One young woman wrote in and said,

"We have a big, expensive television set in the home,

"and it gets turned on twice a week,

for SOUL! and for SOUL!'s rerun."

- We hope you will continue supporting us

by writing to SOUL!


All you have to do is simply write to us.

Simply write to SOUL!

[dance music]

- ♪ I've got a dance, ain't got no steps, no ♪

♪ I'm gonna let the music move me around, yeah ♪

♪ I got a dance. I ain't got no steps, no ♪

♪ I'm gonna let the music move me around ♪

♪ Will it go around in circles? ♪

♪ Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky? ♪

- We interrupted this program tonight

with Billy Preston, the Master's Child

to tell you that a few weeks ago,

the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

announced those programs

which would be included in its funding cycle

for next season.

SOUL! was not.

I repeat, SOUL! was not one of the programs

that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said

that they would re-fund for next season.

- SOUL! and Black Journal, both of which, at that point,

are produced out of Channel 13 in New York

are both slated for defunding,

which essentially means canceled.

- Nixon got in,

and he had a very different idea

for Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

It takes a turn ever so quickly.

- It's part of a policy

to destroy all Black programming on the network.

- Ellis Haizlip is totally correct,

you know, when he tells "Jet" magazine

and when he tells other journalists, like,

"This is about getting rid of Blacks on television."

- I think there's always somebody,

and sometimes there are large numbers of them,

who are embarrassed or irritated

or frightened of programs in which people,

Black, white, Hispanic,

or any other nationality,

say exactly what they want to say,

so sure, if Ellis said that there were people

who want to get rid of all Black programming

in the Nixon administration,

I'm sure there were some people who wanted to do that.

[tense music]

- Corporation of Public Broadcasting.

We should totally... [unintelligible]

- I have heard that somebody at CPB said,

"We have conquered racism in America,

so we don't need SOUL! anymore, or Black Journal.

If anyone did say that, they have to be prime idiots,

or they were shills for President Nixon.

No one in their right mind

could think that racism was dead

after three or four years of SOUL!

If it was, then that's a pretty good result

for a television series.

- Ellis believed that there was no need

to embroil himself and to be in

the rough-and-tumble politics of the streets.

He was a noble.

He was a patrician.

He saw no need for it, but there was something else.

I remember talking to him and saying,

"Ellis, what the [bleep] is wrong with you?

"Why are you standing here?

"We're missing a show that is so important.

"Let's move on PBS. Let's move on Channel 13.

"Ellis, what they're doing is treating us like niggers,

and I refuse to be treated like that,"

and I started screaming.

And he said, "Felipe,

"I am not going to get involved

"in the politics of the streets.

I'm just not going to do it."

I said, "Ellis, do you understand what this means?

"We're gonna lose the damn show!

This is a piece of history. Let's fight for it."

He said, "If they don't understand

"the importance of this show,

let it go."

- Sometimes it's necessary

in the evolution of things

to disappear.

- Bless you. This is dedicated all to you, okay?

♪ Ooh

[R&B ballad]

♪ And oh

- I have been very fortunate in being received

in many homes across the country,

and I thank you for that opportunity

and that privilege of being in your homes.

- It was a loss.

It actually left a hole,

a vacuum in our lives,

because where do you go...

- ♪ I'll miss you, baby - ♪ Miss you

♪ Miss you, miss you

- When you burn with a feeling of rage...

And there's nowhere to express it

that anyone will hear you?

- ♪ I ain't been doing nothing but ♪

- ♪ Thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking ♪

- ♪ With my head in my hands

♪ Been crying, oh

- SOUL! taped its first program

on September the 8th, 1968.

We began the route of documenting our own history

because we know from what we see in the media,

from the response we've had from the people,

that SOUL! will be included in the television history

of this decade when things go down.

- I just hated to see the demise of SOUL!

simply for the reason that, you know,

you knew that they were not going to replace it.

- But because I hadn't seen enough images of myself,

I watched.

Lo and behold,

I saw Wilson Pickett, the Last Poets,

was introduced to Barbara Ann Teer,

Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder, Nikki Giovanni, Al Green,

experienced Bill Withers and Imamu Baraka,

and I'm not trying to say

that I won't ever see Black people on TV

should some unaware group of people take SOUL! off.

It's just that I won't see Black people creating,

searching, and acting

instead of researching and reacting.

There exists, as far as I know,

no TV program that deals with my culture

so completely, so freely, and so beautifully.

There is no alternative to SOUL!

- And I hope he knew that was the importance,

that he was there.

You know, he was saying,

"This is how you do this, sucker."

- Although it's over, it's not the end.

Black seeds keep on growing.

There's been a dream of mine,

and it still is a dream of mine,

and that is that Black people can come together

and can form a union of coexisting

in an artistic world

where everything can be beautiful

and you can avoid

a lot of the discussions and hassle

because they understand.

Black authors and poets

trying to put it on paper, trying hard,

Black songwriters and singers recording soulful,

gospel, jazz, rock.

It's there, and we know it.

- Keep hope alive!


- I'm reclaiming my time. - The House--

- Reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time.

- Yes, we are all mirror-eyed people,

Black people, miracle people,

spiritual people, gifted people,

God-given people with mirror eyes

reflecting love and hate.

They're our hope, our lives, our past, present, and future.

Our children and their children

all need yours, ours.

So let's give all these beautiful people

who've given me all these vibrations

a warm hand.


- We were just mind-blown. Like, "Yo, this is every day."

To me, that was true Black power right there.

Today, some 50 years later,

can you imagine what SOUL! would have been like

for a 20-year run?

Like, how different would our lives have been?

- This is Ellis Haizlip saying good night.


- ♪ Do you know who you are

♪ Where you come from and what you possess? ♪

- Service to others is the rent we pay

for taking up space on the planet.

Ellis served a whole nation,

so Ellis's rent has been fully paid.

- But certainly, had we more Ellis Haizlips today,

more men and women of that fabric,

with that kind of gift, with that kind of passion,

with that kind of quest for truth,

I think, by and large,

America and the world would be a better place

in which to reside.

You don't get an ending better than that.

This is over.

- ♪ Show me your soul - ♪ Oh

- ♪ Where is your soul? - ♪ Oh

- ♪ Where is your soul? - ♪ Show me your soul

- ♪ Show me your soul

- ♪ Find that there's nothing but evolution in my show ♪

- ♪ Show me your soul



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