Independent Lens and PBS Present: Tell Them We Are Rising

February 15, 2018

The Latest Documentary from Stanley Nelson Explores the Rich History of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Stanley Nelson, Filmmaker, Tell Them We Are Rising

(San Francisco, CA, Thursday, February 15, 2018) – Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities is the latest documentary from Stanley Nelson (Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Freedom Riders). In 2016 Nelson was honored with a Lifetime Peabody Award, has received two News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, two Primetime Emmy® Awards, the 2013 National Humanities Medal from President Obama, and is a MacArthur “Genius” fellow for directing, writing and producing America’s foremost films of the African-American experience. In his new film Nelson spotlights the powerful story of the rise, influence, and evolution of HBCUs as they came to life.

The rich history of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) began before the end of slavery, flourished in the 20th century, and profoundly influenced the course of the nation for more than 150 years — yet remains largely unknown.

Tell Them We Are Rising, co-directed and co-produced by Marco Williams, premieres on Independent Lens, Monday, February 19, 2018, from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. ET on PBS. 

A key driver of Black social, political and economic progress, HBCUs were also a place of unprecedented freedom for African-American students and a refuge from the rampant racism that raged outside the campus walls. Created following the era when it was a crime in many states to teach African Americans to read, HBCUs sprang up following the end of the Civil War, particularly in the rural south.

Following WWI, when African American soldiers returned from the front expecting a more equitable piece of the American Dream, known as “The New Negro” movement, new students wanted nothing less than the full rights of citizenship. More HBCUs were founded — and run by — African-American leaders unlike their predecessors. During the 1930s and 40s — what many consider the “Golden Age” of HBCUs — these institutions graduated doctors, lawyers and professionals who created the first Black middle class.

Stanley Nelson (Director/Writer/Producer) has been acknowledged as one of the preeminent documentary filmmakers of our time. He has directed and produced more than 12 documentary features including Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple and The Murder of Emmett Till.

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