Don Cornelius' 'Soul Train' Trick: Putting Actual Black People In Your Living Room

By Jacob Shelton
Don Cornelius dances down the Soul Train Line with Jean Terrell and Lynda Laurence of the Supremes on Soul Train episode 62, aired 5/26/1973. (Photo by Soul Train via Getty Images).

From the opening shout of "Sooooouuul Traaaain" to the final dance number, Soul Train hosted by Don Cornelius was more than just the black answer to American Bandstand. Soul Train put soul and R&B music front and center while mainstreaming black urban culture. Soul Train introduced artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, King Curtis, and Sister Sledge to viewers in middle America. Without Soul Train, Americans of all colors might not have seen stylish black people having fun on television. 

It may sound ridiculous today, but the entertainment industry engaged in a selective segregation that permitted black artists to have chart hits and perform, but assumed a white audience of white consumers. The idea of black artists playing music for black people, and advertisers selling products to black consumers during the commercial break, was outlandish in the '60s.