Production Bios

Stanley Nelson, Writer/Producer/Director

Stanley Nelson, recipient of a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship, is an award-winning filmmaker best known for his groundbreaking historical documentaries that illuminate critical but overlooked history. Nelson's work for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE includes Wounded Knee, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind and The Murder of Emmett Till. Nelson has been honored with the Sundance Special Jury Prize, Peabody Award, Primetime Emmy, and an IDA Award. He directed Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords, which won a duPont-Columbia Silver Baton and the Sundance Film Festival's Freedom of Expression Award. His 2004 film, A Place of Our Own, a semi-autobiographical look at the African-American middle class, screened at the Sundance Film Festival and later on PBS's INDEPENDENT LENS. In 2005, PBS's AMERICAN MASTERS debuted Nelson's Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice, which went on to become a top-selling concert film. He produced and directed Wounded Knee, one of the five films that formed part of the We Shall Remain series for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Nelson is the executive producer of Firelight Media, a non-profit production company dedicated to telling the stories of people, places, and issues that are underrepresented in popular culture.

Laurens Grant, Producer

Laurens Grant is a multi-Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose credits include serving as co-producer for two ground-breaking four-hour series for PBS: the recently released Latin Music USA: The Chicano Wave and the Emmy-winning Slavery and the Making of America: Seeds of Destruction. Grant was also coordinating producer for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's The Murder of Emmett Till, which was honored with a Sundance Jury Award, Primetime Emmy and a Peabody Award for Best Documentary. The U.S. Department of Justice re-opened the Emmett Till murder case in part due to the film's previously unpublished eyewitness accounts and research. Grant has produced and directed films for A&E and The History Channel, and has directed projects in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and in America's inner city high schools. Prior to her work in documentary film, she worked as a foreign correspondent, heading up the Reuters bureau in Panama. She has written about Latin America for Newsweek, the Miami Herald, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The San Francisco Examiner. Grant is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Mark Samels, Executive Producer

Mark Samels is executive producer of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, PBS's flagship history series. Produced by WGBH/Boston, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is television's most-watched and longest running history series. Under Samels' leadership, the series has been honored with nearly every industry award, including the Peabody, Primetime Emmys, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Writers Guild Awards, Oscar nominations, and Sundance Film Festival Audience and Grand Jury Awards.

Samels has overseen the production of more than 100 films for the series, focusing on stories from America's past that are highly resonant in the world today. He has expanded both the breadth of subjects and the filmmaking style embraced by the series, allowing for more contemporary topics and more witness-driven storytelling. In addition to his public television work, Samels is a founding member of the International Documentary Association and has served on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Nonfiction Peer Group.

Raymond Arsenault, author, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and Program Advisor of the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where he has taught since 1980. A specialist in the political, social, and environmental history of the American South, he has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, and at the Université d'Angers, in France, where he was a Fulbright Lecturer in 1984-85. Arsenault has served as a consultant for numerous museums and public institutions, including the National Park Service, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the United States Information Agency. He has lectured on American history and culture in a number of countries, including France, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Norway, Turkey, and Jordan. Arsenault's acclaimed 2006 book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, is widely recognized as the definitive work on the Freedom Rider movement.

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