Stanley Nelson Jr.

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Stanley Nelson Jr.
Stanley Nelson Jr. 2016-05-21 001.jpg
Stanley Nelson Jr. at the 75th Annual Peabody Awards
Born Stanley Earl Nelson Jr.
(1951-06-07) June 7, 1951 (age 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Education William Greaves
Alma mater City College of New York (B.F.A.)
Occupation Film director, producer
Awards MacArthur Fellows Program
National Humanities Medal

Stanley Earl Nelson Jr. (born June 7, 1951) is an American director and producer of documentary films known for examining the history and experiences of African Americans.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Among his notable films are Freedom Riders (2011), Wounded Knee (2009), Jonestown: The Life & Death of People’s Temple (2006), Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice (2005), A Place of Our Own (2004), The Murder of Emmett Till (2003), and The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords (1998).

Early life and education[edit]

Nelson was born in New York City in 1951, son of Stanley Nelson Sr. and A’lelia (Ransom) Nelson, and brother to Lynn, Jill and Ralph. His sister Jill Nelson is a prominent African-American journalist and novelist. Nelson attended New Lincoln School, a private Manhattan school, from kindergarten through high school.

He graduated from the Leonard Davis Film School at the City College of New York with a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in 1976.[10]


After graduation, Nelson earned an apprenticeship with the documentary filmmaker William Greaves. In 1989, Nelson wrote and produced his debut film, entitled Two Dollars and a Dream: The Story of Madam C.J. Walker. The film was named Best Production of the Decade by the Black Filmmaker Foundation, and won the CINE Golden Eagle Award.

Nelson soon found a job at PBS, working as a television producer with Bill Moyers for the TV series Listening to America. His next film releases included the Emmy Award-nominated documentary The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (1999),[11] and Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind (2000), an award winner at the 2000 Black International Cinema Festival. Nelson has made several productions for the Smithsonian Institution, including a tribute to African-American artists, entitled Free Within Ourselves, and Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.

Nelson received fellowships at American Film Institute, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and Columbia University. He received a 2002 MacArthur Fellows Program Fellowship. He was on the selection panel for three years for the Fulbright fellowship in film. In 2003, he was honored the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for Non-Fiction Programming for The American Experience (1988) (PBS), for the episode The Murder Of Emmett Till. Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize; the George Forster Peabody award. In 2004, he received an honor by winning the Educational Video Center's Excellence in Community Service Award.

On May 4, 2011, Stanley Nelson and his film Freedom Riders were featured by Oprah Winfrey in a special program celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders.[12] Nelson directed the 2015 documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, the first of what is to be a three-part series of documentaries about African-American history entitled America Revisited.

Stanley Nelson is co-founder and Executive Director of Firelight Media, a non-profit which provides technical education and professional support to emerging documentarians. He is co-founder of 'Firelight Films', the for-profit documentary production company.



  1. ^ "Stanley Nelson Biography." The History Makers, 2006. Retrieved March 8, 2007. The History Makers
  2. ^ Meet CCNY Alumnus Stanley Nelson. (2007). Retrieved March 8, 2007. CCNY
  3. ^ Stanley Nelson. (2004). Retrieved March 8, 2007 PBS
  4. ^ The New York Times
  5. ^ The New York Times
  6. ^
  7. ^ Indiewire
  8. ^ ABC News
  9. ^ Yahoo Movies: Stanley Nelson Biography. (2006). Retrieved March 7, 2007. Yahoo
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords". Firelight Media. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Tribute to Freedom Riders". The Oprah Winfrey Show. 

External links[edit]