Tell Them We Are Rising: A Documentary Film Breaks New Ground, Andrew W. Mellon Program Associate Emma Taati Interviews Director Stanley Nelson
Founded to educate a population newly freed from legal slavery, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been largely invisible in both American history and the history of higher education. Director Stanley Nelson’s new film, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges & Universities, begins with the profound challenge facing schools that were designed to educate African Americans, and that were, with very few exceptions, the only higher education option available to them. The film takes viewers on a fascinating journey starting with the early development of HBCUs and covers their contributions to American history and culture, up to and including the present day.
Nelson is a three-time Emmy award-winning producer-director, MacArthur Fellow, and National Humanities Medal recipient. He presents the first and only multi-platform feature documentary project that explores equal access to higher education as a benchmark of democracy; the intersections between the university and the civil rights movement; changing attitudes toward education in the African American community; and the current and future place of HBCUs in a changing America.
Through its support of curricular and faculty development at a select group of HBCUs, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation occupies a niche in educational philanthropy. Nelson’s new film provides a valuable and necessary complement to our grantmaking in this area.
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges & Universities premieres Monday, February 19th on PBS stations nationwide. We spoke with Nelson about the making of the film, and what he believes the future holds for HBCUs...