“Get on Board,” one of the the rollicking themes from “Soul Train” could be the mantra of the National Museum of African American History and Culture as the future museum raises funds and collects artifacts.
It has decided to collect some artifacts from “the hippest trip in America,” officials announced Thursday. Next week a few items from the groundbreaking --and backbreaking, in some cases--weekly show of dance and music will be given to the museum.
For 37 years and more than 1,000 episodes, “Soul Train” spotlighted the latest dance moves born in the African American communities in its signature Soul Train dance line. And the dancing didn’t stop as the musical headliners of the time performed. On the stage were The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Christina Aquilera, David Bowie, James Brown and John Legend.
The show first aired nationally in 1971, hosted by Don Cornelius, a Chicago disc jockey who took the show to Los Angeles, and into syndication. Cornelius had a thunderous voice, ending each show with a promise: “As always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOUL!”
“From a scholarly point of view, this is one of those television shows that beamed African American cultural to the households of black and white America. It become of the early crossover shows. It dominated the black TV viewership of black teenagers. And then it impacted white households,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the museum. The New Jersey native added a personal note to the gift. “Like every black kid in America, I watched to see what the newest move was--even if I couldn’t do it.”
The five donations include the 10- foot-long neon “Train” sign, which was used from 1993 to 2006 and neon signs from the program’s music awards show, used in 2006 and 2007.
The acquisitions will be formally announced June 30 at a special panel discussion and dance party, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s festival will focus on the culture of Colombia, the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps and Rhythm and Blues music.
The “Soul Train” events on the National Mall include Kenard Gibbs, the CEO of Soul Train Holdings; Tony Cornelius, the son of Don Cornelius; Nicholas Puzo, a discjockey and founder of SoulTrainFans and Questlove, a discjockey and drummer for the Roots. Tuliza Fleming, the museum curator who initiated the acquisition, will moderate the panel. Tyrone Proctor, one of the original Soul Train dancers, will demonstrate some moves and host the party with Questlove spinning the songs, as they used to say.