How Don Cornelius became the 'pope of soul'
Don Cornelius' impact on America went beyond music. "Soul Train" united white and black America together.
February 1st, 2012
04:30 PM ET

How Don Cornelius became the 'pope of soul'

By John Blake and Todd Leopold, CNN

(CNN) - Don Cornelius never led a civil rights march, launched a boycott or gave a speech before a cheering crowd of protesters.

But his impact on America was as profound as virtually any civil rights leader, says Shayne Lee, a sociologist who grew up watching "Soul Train."

Cornelius' groundbreaking TV show didn't just captivate African-Americans - it tied white and black America together in a way that had not been done before, says Lee, who teaches a course on hip-hop at the University of Houston.

"He was an ambassador, the pope of soul," Lee said. "For a lot of suburban whites living in segregated America, this was their first exposure to this exiting new world of movement and energy. He made black culture more accessible."

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