The AAPB is pleased to launch the Vegetable Soup Collection, which contains episodes from the eponymous children’s educational television series produced by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) with support from a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under the direction of the award-winning producer Yanna Kroyt Brandt.
Produced over two seasons and distributed by PBS and NBC from September 22, 1975 to December 14, 1978, the series aimed to oppose racial and cultural stereotypes by exposing children to characters of various backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and cultures. Brandt and her production team geared Vegetable Soup toward children of elementary-school age. Episodes are made up of a mix of live action, cartoon, puppetry, and mixed-media segments.
Among the voice actors included in the series are James Earl Jones, who played Long John Spoilsport, and Bette Midler, who played Woody the Spoon. Episodes in the collection are from seasons 1 and 2, and include segments featuring Puerto Rican music and history; “The Big Job Hunt,” a segment in game-show format where two teams of students from schools around the U.S. answer trivia; a puppetry performance of an African folktale; a cartoon rendition of “Kasa-Jizo,” a traditional Japanese folktale; a live-action lesson about girls in sports; and a story about a Hupa girl who educates her non-Indigenous friends about the hurt behind stereotypes. Among the many subjects featured in the collection are race, gender, history, education, folktales, art, music, sports, nature, crafts, and childhood.
Episodes of Vegetable Soup are held by the New York State Archives. Materials were digitized in 2019 and submitted to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.
Visit the collection at https://americanarchive.org/special_collections/vegetable-soup.
Explore a few featured episodes from the series:
A note from Miranda Villesvik, AAPB Archivist:
This special collection marks an exciting first for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), since it is the first collection to be created using our new metadata system. This meant that the process of ingesting materials from Vegetable Soup was completely new, the formatting of identifiers was different than in previous collections, and our systems had to be revised a few times. So, although the episodes are presented like other AAPB materials, there was a lot of work that went on in the background.
The Vegetable Soup special collection was also fantastic to write, since I got to learn about this great show. I spent some time watching segments from various episodes and attempted to feature some from a variety of perspectives and formats. My personal favorite is the cartoon version of “Kasa-Jizo,” since it’s a folktale I grew up hearing, and it was my first time seeing it told to an American audience. The collection was also great to write because I had great input from Jeffrey Reznick, and especially enjoyed reading another person’s perspective on Vegetable Soup’s contribution to children’s television.
Special thanks to Jeffrey S. Reznick, Ph.D., of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, for his many contributions to the research related to this collection. Thanks also to Monica Gray and her colleagues at the New York State Archives for their experience and expertise dedicated to preserving and digitizing this collection, as well as making accessible related archival records, without which the research by Dr. Reznick, and the availability of Vegetable Soup in the AAPB would not have been possible.
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a national effort to preserve at-risk public media and provide a central web portal for access to the programming that public stations and producers have created over the past 70 years. To date, over 100,000 items of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized, and the Archive aims to grow by up to 25,000 additional hours per year. The entire collection is available for research on location at WGBH and the Library, and currently more than 50,000 programs are available in the AAPB’s Online Reading Room at americanarchive.org to anyone in the United States.