His most recent film, 2015’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” now widely accessible on various home video formats, veteran documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson is now set to premiere his next work, an ambitious two-hour documentary and multimedia project that explores the pivotal role Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played in American history, culture, and national identity.

An official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the upcoming 2017 Sundance Film Festival which kicks off later this month, the first ever project of its kind on HBCUs is titled “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” It will feature the voices, photos, letters, diaries, home movies and a variety of never before seen or heard media that reveal this important aspect of collective American History, via the many stories from HBCU students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The documentary will tell stories of Americans who would not be denied a higher education, demonstrating how the 150-year history of HBCUs has influenced generations of Americans and shaped the landscape of the country.

Nelson is producing the feature documentary via his Firelight Films production company, and directing alongside fellow documentarian Marco Williams.

To coincide with the premiere of the film, the production team has also launched HBCURising.com – an online space where HBCU students, alumni, families and faculty are invited to contribute to the documentary and multimedia project by sharing personal photos, videos, and stories capturing their individual HBCU experiences. All contributed content to the website will be curated and shared in the HBCU Rising Digital Yearbook, and during HBCU campus and community events leading up to the film’s TV premiere on PBS in October 2017.

“One of the goals of the ’Tell Them We Are Rising’ project is to create a space for collaborative storytelling,” co-director Williams said in a previous statement.

Added Nelson about the effort: “To tell this important and complex story, it is essential that our documentary highlights personal accounts, letters, diaries, photographs, and even home movies of the people who have lived the HBCU experience.”

So follow the instructions on the image at the top of this post to contribute to the effort.

“We’re honored to produce the first film on the history of HBCUs, but we are equally excited to use technology to collaborate with audiences because the story of HBCUs far surpasses what can be told in one documentary,” Nelson said. “It’s the personal stories of innumerable lives transformed by these institutions over hundreds of years at the forefront of this narrative, and this is our effort to leave no story behind.”

Partners in “Tell Them We Are Rising” and HBCURising.com include The Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund.


A teaser for the upcoming feature documentary follows below: