The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) presents the prize annually to a journalist or filmmaker who has made a lasting contribution to their field. Television magnate and CNN founder Ted Turner received the 2015 honors.
Nelson’s body of work focuses on the African American experience, with recent directing credits including Freedom Summer (2014) and Freedom Riders (2010). He is also the co-founder of Firelight Media, a social justice-oriented non-profit prodco.
The MacArthur “Genius” fellow is the recipient of a 2016 Peabody award, and he has received five Primetime Emmy awards over the course of his career. Nelson was awarded the 2013 National Medal in the Humanities from U.S. President Barack Obama.
He is currently at work on two films for PBS’ new multi-platform series America Revisited, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and The Slave Trade: Creating a New World.
“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,” reads a statement from the NATAS.
He will receive the award on September 21 in New York during the 37th annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards, for which nominations were revealed last week.
Read our interview with Nelson from the January/February issue of realscreen magazine here.