It′s Been Beautiful

Soul! and Black Power Television

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 38 photographs Published: March 2015

Author: Gayle Wald

Contributor: Chester Higgins

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Media Studies > TV, Music > Popular Music

Soul! was where Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire got funky, where Toni Morrison read from her debut novel, where James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni discussed gender and power, and where Amiri Baraka and Stokely Carmichael enjoyed a sympathetic forum for their radical politics. Broadcast on public television between 1968 and 1973, Soul!, helmed by pioneering producer and frequent host Ellis Haizlip, connected an array of black performers and public figures with a black viewing audience. In It's Been Beautiful, Gayle Wald tells the story of Soul!, casting this influential but overlooked program as a bold and innovative use of television to represent and critically explore black identity, culture, and feeling during a transitional period in the black freedom struggle.


“Gayle Wald rescues Soul! from the archives with It’s Been Beautiful, a carefully written account of how the show came to be, and what it accomplished in its five-year run.”  — Mark Reynolds, PopMatters

“[An] evocative, detailed book. . . . Wald’s book is both a timely and a galvanizing addition to what might be described as black analog studies.”   — Mark Anthony Neal, Chronicle Review

“Wald's writing energises the reader when describing specific episodes. She was granted full access to the 30 or so episodes that survive as well as securing photographs for the book from Chester Higgins, who shot publicity stills each week during filming. When the narrative and the photographs intersect, the book really begins to resonate. Every couple of pages, you wish that you could view the Thelonious Monk performance being described, or hear the voice of Malcolm X's widow Betty Shabazz detailing her struggles. This is a singular book that will never be bettered or repeated. . . ." — Pat Thomas, The Wire

"Including photos by Chester Higgins, who shot the publicity stills for the show, this volume presents a factual history of this influential television program and of the period. Highly recommended. All readers." — C. L. Clements, Choice

“In the late 60s and early 70s, Ellis Haizlip's groundbreaking public television program Soul! presented black authors, activists, and musicians speaking and performing without any kind of filter. Episodes included Nikki Giovanni debating James Baldwin and Labelle covering the Who's ‘Won't Get Fooled Again.’ Wald provides evocative descriptions of the shows and places them in cultural context.” — Aaron Cohen, Chicago Reader

"It’s Been Beautiful is an important and timely book that charts how Soul! broadcast the vitality of black culture to predominately black audiences." — Matt Delmont, Journal of American History

"It’s Been Beautiful offers a great contribution on the Black Power movement, chronicling a mediatic space that played a central role in black people’s lives during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Wald shows how media engages in ideological and identity processes while also demonstrating its radical potential. Any scholar interested in Black Power and media would surely enjoy this well-written and engaging book."  — Bianca Gonzalez-Sobrino, Ethnic and Racial Studies

"...both a fascinating read and important scholarship." — Todd Steven Burroughs, Journal of Pan African Studies

"Since Wald argues that one of Soul!’ s key attributes is the unique 'archive' it provides of this era in black history, the book provides a very useful companion to courses examining the period. By showcasing and interviewing artists associated with the Black Arts Movement such as the Last Poets; featuring jazz musicians like Rahsaan Roland Kirk; including conversations about family, gender, and domesticity between poet Nikki Giovanni and writer James Baldwin; and airing discussions with poet and activist Amiri Baraka, the show and Wald’sanalysis of it provide students with productive texts to examine and deepen their understanding of the era."  — Aniko Bodroghkozy, History Teacher

"It’s Been Beautiful successfully brings attention, with both dignity and respect, to a neglected but influential and deserving part of African American cultural history." — Rob Bowman, IASPM@Journal

"The next step should have been, needed to be, had to be a strut. And no one strutted like Ellis Haizlip. We on the radical side of Civil Rights needed someone to listen; those on the more traditional side needed a platform from which to explain their views. Soul! brought it all together. Opera to Rap; Muslim to Christian; men to women; straights to gays. Soul! didn’t back off of any aspect of our community. Brave, Bold and downright Simply Wonderful. Haizlip lead all the shows that followed: Blacks on national television shows doing news; doing entertainment; from Tony Brown’s Journal to Don Cornelius’s signature “Peace, Love and Soul!” Ellis was the leader. Now his story and the story of that great show can be told. Excellent job, Gayle Wald. Ellis would be proud." — Nikki Giovanni, poet

"Gayle Wald's examination of Soul! offers new ways of interrogating the imbricated discourses of Civil Rights and Black Power politics in the context of popular culture. It's Been Beautiful contributes to cultural and televisual studies, adds new dimensions to sonic studies and black performance studies, intervenes in and expands the racial and political dimensions of affect studies, and builds in exciting ways on new advances in black queer cultural studies."
— Daphne A. Brooks, author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–1910


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gayle Wald is Professor of English and American Studies at George Washington University. She is the author of Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in U.S. Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations  vii

Photographer's Note: A Vision of Soul! / Chester Higgins  ix

Introduction. "It's Been Beautiful"  1

1. Soul! and the 1960s  36

2. The Black Community and the Affective Compact  70

3. "More Meaningful Than a Three-Hour Lecture": Music on Soul!  104

4. Freaks Like Us: Black Misfit Performance on Soul!  145

5. The Racial State and the "Disappearance" of Soul!  181

Conclusion. Soul! at the Center  213

Acknowledgments  221

Notes  225

Bibliography  253

Index  265
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5837-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5825-1
Publicity material