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University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE 68503-2427)
William G. Thomas (Project Director: January 2019 to present)
The Bell Affair: A Film Reframing American Slavery and Freedom

Production of a one-hour live action animated documentary about an enslaved family that sued for freedom in 1830s Washington, D.C.

We are requesting a media production grant to support the completion of a one-hour animated documentary film set in Washington, D.C. in 1835-1836 about family, politics, slavery, and the making and meaning of freedom. The Bell Affair focuses on the particular experience of one enslaved family who sued for their freedom at a pivotal moment in the national struggle over slavery. Our team has produced an award-winning live-action animated short film, Anna (2018,, as a proof-of-concept. This feature project tells the story of Daniel Bell, who launched a lawsuit to make his family free just as a labor strike, a lynch mob, and a race riot erupted in the nation's capital. This grant would provide critical support to film and animate the script; complete post-production and editing; develop a website to disseminate materials related to the historical context; design teaching programs with original source documents; and market, promote, and distribute the feature film.

Project fields:
African American History; Arts, General; U.S. History

Media Projects Production

Public Programs

$200,000 (approved)
$200,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2019 – 12/31/2021