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New York, N.Y. – July 28, 2016 – The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced today that the 2016 News & Documentary Emmy Award honoree for Lifetime Achievement is documentarian and founder of Firelight Media, Stanley Nelson. Mr. Nelson is to be honored for his mastery of the craft of the documentary, particularly the historical documentary, and for his distinguished body of films exploring the many facets of the African American experience. The honor is bestowed annually on a journalist or filmmaker who has made a lasting and distinguished contribution to broadcast journalism or documentary film. The award will be presented on September 21, 2016, at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City during the 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards.

“The National Academy is proud to honor Stanley Nelson with the News & Documentary Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding body of work,” said Bob Mauro, President & CEO, NATAS. “Stanley is widely recognized for his captivating storytelling and wide-ranging exploration of the African American experience, and we are honored to add his name to the list of distinguished documentarians and journalists who have received this award.”

Stanley Nelson

Mr. Nelson is one of the foremost chroniclers of the African American experience working in nonfiction film today. His films, many of which have aired on PBS, combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past.

Mr. Nelson’s latest film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016), is arguably the first comprehensive feature length historical documentary portrait of that iconic organization, as well as an extremely timely look at an earlier phase of black activism around police violence in African American communities. The film was recently nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Nelson’s two previous films, Freedom Summer (2014) and Freedom Riders (2010), took a fresh look at multiracial efforts to register black voters and desegregate public transportation facilities in the Jim Crow South, critical events in the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s. Nelson’s 2003 film The Murder of Emmett Till, about the brutal killing of a fourteen-year-old African American boy in Mississippi in 1955, an event that had a galvanizing effect on the mid-century civil rights movement, uncovered new eyewitnesses to the crime and helped prompt the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen the case. Upcoming films include Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges, and The Slave Trade: Creating a New World. The films are part of a new multi-platform PBS series entitled America Revisited.

Other notable Nelson films include the Emmy nominated The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (1999), a sweeping portrait of over a century of independent black journalism; Two Dollars and a Dream (1989), a biography of Madame C.J. Walker, the first self-made African American female millionaire; Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple (2006), a riveting account of how cult leader Jim Jones led more than 900 followers to commit mass suicide in a remote corner of northwestern Guyana in 1978; Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind (2000) a moving account of the life of the controversial early twentieth century black nationalist; and A Place of Our Own (2004), a remarkable and revealing portrait of the upper middle class African American resort community of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as a very personal portrait of Nelson’s sometimes difficult relationship with his father.

In 2000, Mr. Nelson, along with his wife, Marcia A. Smith, founded Firelight Media, a nonprofit production company dedicated to using historical film to advance contemporary social justice causes, and to mentoring, inspiring and training a new generation of diverse young filmmakers committed to advancing underrepresented stories.

Nelson, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, was awarded an individual Peabody for his body of work in May of 2016. He has received numerous honors over the course of his career, including five Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2013 Nelson received the National Medal in the Humanities from President Barack Obama.


The 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards honors programming distributed during the calendar year 2015.

The list of nominees is also available on the National Television Academy’s website:

Yangaroo, Inc. is the official provider of the Digital Media Distribution System Awards Management Solution (“DMDS”) for the submission, judging and voting of all programs in the 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards.  Accounting services for the competition are provided by the firm of Lutz & Carr, LLP.

United Airlines is the official airline of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

About The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) is a service organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. It recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy® Award for News & Documentary, Sports, Daytime Entertainment, Daytime Creative Arts & Entertainment, Public & Community Service, and Technology & Engineering.  NATAS membership consists of over 15,000 broadcast and media professionals represented in 19 regional chapters across the country. Beyond awards, NATAS has extensive educational programs including Regional Student Television and its Student Award for Excellence for outstanding journalistic work by high school students, as well as scholarships, publications, and major activities for both industry professionals and the viewing public.  For more information, please visit the website at

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