Born September 21, 1929 in Washington, D.C., Ellis Benjamin Haizlip was the son of Ellis M. and Sarah Corbett Haizlip. Haizlip began his production career during his days at Howard University, where he produced the Howard Players in addition to majoring in sociology and economics. He moved to New York after graduation and began his involvement in professional production, including both productions at the Harlem YMCA of plays such as
Dark of the Moon
and international tours of James Baldwin's
The Amen Corner
and the dance show
Black New World
. Haizlip is best known for the television series
, a program that aired on public television WNET during the late 1960s and early 1970s, then resurfaced in the early 1980s.
was a variety show focused on African-American experience, featuring music, dance, poetry, and interviews by and with black performers. Haizlip produced and occasionally hosted the program. He also created the educational series
Watch Your Mouth!
, a sitcom-style program featuring a diverse cast of characters who all struggled with Standard English. In addition to his career, Haizlip was involved with a plethora of organizations of all sorts, from political campaigns to arts organizations to a variety of African American groups such as Black Convention, Inc. and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Haizlip had a complex relationship with these organizations, serving as a board member on some, a hired event producer on others, and in some cases playing multiple roles within a single organization, such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Haizlip was openly gay, and was active in several LGBT rights groups during his life. His personal life was filled with a social circle of devoted and notable friends, among them Betty Shabazz, Novella Nelson, and Nikki Giovanni. Haizlip died of lung cancer on January 25, 1991. He was 61 years old.