1929-09-17

ELLIS B. HAIZLIP aka “Mr. Soul”, born on this date (d: 1991) was a leading producer of black cultural events and mentor of black artists, 

Ellis Haizlip was born in Washington, DC. Details of his early life are elusive, but rumors have persisted that his father was a diplomat who once served as the ambassador to the Court of St. James from Antigua (other accounts claimed Trinidad) and he may have spent many of his formative years in London. He told friends that he grew up in segregated Washington DC, and had had witnessed contralto Marian Anderson’s legendary 1939 concert on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial. We do know that he attended Howard University and graduated from there in 1954.

Mr. Haizlip helped further the careers of many black artists, including the singers Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Roberta Flack and Novella Nelson and the actress Anna Horsford.

He was the executive producer of the television program “Soul,” which became a showcase for young black artists, among them the poet Nikki Giovanni. The program was broadcast on Channel 13 from 1967 to 1973.

Mr. Haizlip began his career at Howard University, where he was a producer with the Howard Players during a summer season. After graduating in 1954, he left for New York City, where he began producing plays with Vinnette Carroll at the Harlem Y.M.C.A. One of their productions was “Dark of the Moon,” with Cicely Tyson, Clarence Williams 3d, Isabel Sanford, Calvin Lockhart, James Earl Jones and the Alvin Ailey Dancers. Produced Dietrich Concert.

Haizlip was an out gay man at a time when that was dangerous. He spoke out about LGBT rights at every opportunity he was given, even confronting Louis Farrakhan.

He died of lung cancer in 1991.. His niece Melissa Haizlip has produced a documentary about her uncle called “Mr. Soul” More about that here: https://www.mrsoulmovie.com/