Individual 2015

Individual Award: Stanley Nelson

Stanley Nelson has directed a trio of Peabody-winning documentaries that have become landmarks in documentary filmmaking and have deepened our understanding of the Civil Rights struggle: The Murder of Emmett Till, Freedom Summer and Freedom Riders. For this deeply influential and revealing body of work on a wide range of social justice issues, he was the recipient of the 2013 National Humanities Medal, presented to him by President Barack Obama, and a MacArthur “Genius” grant. Eight of his films have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and he has won every major award in broadcasting. The focus of his work has centered on the rich, largely untapped lode of important stories about marginalized communities and the African-American experience in American history. His first documentary feature, Two Dollars and a Dream, a biography of Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made African-American female millionaire, was released in 1989 to great acclaim. He went on to produce and direct the 1999 Emmy-nominated documentary The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords; Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind, a Black International Cinema Festival award winner in 2000; and Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple, winner of the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006. In 2000, Nelson and his wife, Marcia A. Smith, formed a nonprofit documentary film production company, Firelight Media. Nelson’s resume now includes more than 20 films, and he not only makes documentaries but documentarians as well – mentoring, inspiring and training diverse young filmmakers whose work is now forming the basis of a new generation of filmmakers committed to advancing underrepresented stories from the margins to the forefront of mainstream media. For his pursuit of social justice, his continuing commitment to documenting the Civil Rights movement and his soaring talent as a documentarian filmmaker, Stanley Nelson receives an Individual Peabody Award.