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Stanley Neslon

Documentary Filmmaker Stanley Nelson Visits Shaw

When Stanley Nelson visited Shaw University earlier this month, his schedule was packed. Nelson kicked off his day with a select group of Shaw students in historic Estey Hall, where he described the filmmaking process, what inspires him to create, and the significance of HBCUs. 

Nelson is known as an elite storyteller and for such films as The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, which masterfully tells the story of the birth of the armed resistance group and broke PBS ratings records while doing so. While speaking to the students, he also told about the time he got a phone call from Oprah Winfrey and how he thought he was being pranked. Nelson later appeared on Oprah’s show to promote his PBS documentary Freedom Riders

His new film Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities explores the history of historically black colleges and universities, traces their significance to present day, and addresses the challenges and opportunities they face.   

The film screening kicked off in the Thomas J. Boyd Chapel with a stellar opening performance from Grammy Award-winning Gospel singer and Shaw alumna Pastor Shirley Caesar. Dr. Dillard spoke about the history of the university and announced that Shaw is organizing an HBCU Advocacy Day this spring on Capitol Hill. Following the screening, Deborah Holt Noel, of UNC-TV’s Black Issues Forum hosted a panel with Nelson, Dillard, and St. Augustine’s University president Dr. Everett B. Ward. 

The day’s activities were made possible by a $15,000 donation to WSHA from PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. WSHA was one of ten public radio stations across the country to receive this grant to host Nelson and screen the film. The grant includes funds to promote the film before its nationwide debut on February 19 on PBS’ Independent Lens. On January 30, Shaw and North Carolina Central University will collaborate on a roundtable discussion on the film and HBCUs that will air on UNC-TV.

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