Gayle Wald *95
Gayle Wald *95

The book: It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! And Black Power Television tells the story of the groundbreaking but understudied television program Soul!, which was broadcast on public TV between 1968 and 1973. The only nationally televised program of that time dedicated to cultural expressions of the black freedom movement, Soul! provided a stage for black-culture heroes such as Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte as well as a forum for activists Stokely Carmichael and Louis Farrakhan. Airing at the height of the Black Power era, the show also serves as an archive of black performance.

The author: Gayle Wald *95 is a professor of English and American studies at George Washington University. She is the author of two other books, including Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and has published articles on race, popular music, and feminist and gender studies.

Opening lines: Soul! emerged from the shattering events of the 1960s. In a sense it bears a dialectical relationship to the riots, protests, assassinations, and violence that punctuated the decade, especially in its later years. In other words, Soul! was not simply a child of the 1960s or a cultural mirror for the historical and social changes associated with the era. Neither was Soul!’s emergence or the particular form it took inevitable.

Reviews: “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,” said PopMatters. “€œ[An] evocative, detailed book. . . . both a timely and a galvanizing addition to what might be described as black analog studies,” said Mark Anthony Neal in The Chronicle newspaper of Duke University.