Annual Prize, Supported by The Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation and The Better Angels Society, Recognizes Exemplary U.S. History Documentaries

Nearly $2 Million Awarded Since 2019

Washington, DC – February 15, 2024 – The Library of Congress, The Better Angels Society, Ken Burns, and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation today announced the open call for entries for the sixth annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, which provides critical recognition and resources to filmmakers who produce exemplary documentary films that tell compelling stories about American history.

The Prize for Film was established in 2019 by the Library of Congress and The Better Angels Society, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging Americans with their history through documentary film. This award is bestowed annually by the Librarian of Congress in partnership with The Better Angels Society and provides a cash prize of $200,000 to one winner, a secondary prize of $50,000 to one runner-up, and $25,000 to each of four other finalists. Core underwriting for this prize is provided by a generous gift from Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine through the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation. 

“Each year, I am more impressed with the submissions for the Prize for Film,” said Ken Burns. “I’ve been telling stories about American history for nearly 50 years, and there’s seemingly no end to interesting stories that help us go deeper into our collective past. It’s amazing to see years of careful work, research, and editing come to fruition. I know how thrilling and daunting it is to share a film with an audience for the first time, and I encourage all filmmakers who are in late-stage production to consider applying. We want to see your films.”

“I’m excited to welcome another round of submissions for this prize,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The growing number and exceptional quality of the nominated projects are striking. These films constitute a wonderful body of work that is enlarging our national narrative in important and often surprising ways.”

“The mission of the Prize for Film feels more essential than ever,” said Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine. “As we approach our sixth cycle, we look forward to celebrating the winning films and poignant stories they spotlight, which shed light on both the past and our current moment in American life.”

Members of the 2024 National Jury will include historians Dr. David G. Gutiérrez, Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, Dr. Claudio Saunt, award-winning documentarians Julianna Brannum and Sam Pollard, and bestselling author Ilyon Woo.

The Prize for Film is also supported by an Honorary Committee of acclaimed thought leaders drawn from different corners of the media and cultural landscape, united by a common interest in supporting work that highlights our country’s history through documentary film.

In 2021, thanks to additional support from the Lavines, The Better Angels Lavine Fellowship was also established. Fellows are selected from promising submissions to the Prize for Film that tell often underrepresented stories about American history. They are evaluated based on the potential impact additional mentorship may have in helping the filmmakers complete or share these stories with a wide audience.

“Documentaries that illuminate our shared past through careful research and vivid storytelling are powerful tools to explore our history and strengthen our country,” said Katherine Malone-France, President and CEO of The Better Angels Society. “The Prize for Film is a singular recognition of the very best of these films, while the Lavine Fellows support the most promising emerging filmmakers. Through programs like these, we are building a pipeline of outstanding documentarians who look like America to tell the stories that are meaningful to us all.”

Since 2019, when the Prize for Film started, nearly $2 million has been distributed among filmmakers. Winning films have included FLANNERY (Directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, S.J.); HOLD YOUR FIRE (Directed by Steven Forbes); GRADUALLY, THEN SUDDENLY: THE BANKRUPTCY OF DETROIT (Directed by Sam Katz and James McGovern); BELLA! (Directed by Jeff L. Lieberman); PHILLY ON FIRE (Directed by Ross Hockrow and Tommy Walker); and DROP DEAD CITY – NEW YORK ON THE BRINK IN 1975 (Directed by Peter Yost and Michael Rohatyn). These – and other finalist films – have gone on to have theatrical releases, to be included and recognized at major festivals, and to stream on PBS and other platforms.

In 2024, at least 11 historical documentary films supported by The Better Angels Society will air and stream on PBS, including LEONARDO da VINCI (directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon), MOYNIHAN (American Masters), and FLY WITH ME (American Experience).

To be eligible for the prize, films must be submitted by May 1, 2024, and meet several criteria, most notably the film must focus on an American historical subject, issue, or person within a time frame occurring at least twenty years prior to submission and present a variety of perspectives grounded in extensive and thorough research. The majority of the film must be historically focused to qualify. For more information about the submission guidelines, visit  


About Ken Burns

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for almost fifty years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz; The War; The National Parks: America’s Best Idea; Prohibition; The Roosevelts: An Intimate History; The Vietnam War; Country Music; and, most recently, The American Buffalo. Future film projects include Leonardo da Vinci, The American Revolution, Emancipation to Exodus, and LBJ & the Great Society, among others. Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including sixteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations. In September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In November of 2022, Ken was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

About The Better Angels Society

The Better Angels Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about their history through documentary film. They are the pre-eminent organization supporting American history documentary filmmakers in ways that advance education and civic engagement. The Society works to ensure that films about American history by emerging and established filmmakers are completed, broadcast, promoted, and shared with wide audiences. The organization raises funds to support individual films in partnership with public media and provides recognition and mentoring to student filmmakers through programs like The Next Generation Angels Awards in partnership with National History Day®

About The Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation

Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine established the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation to focus a significant portion of their philanthropic efforts toward leveling the playing field for individuals and families. The Foundation works to address pressing social challenges in education, community and public service, health and welfare, discrimination, and poverty. The Foundation supports the multi-disciplinary efforts of organizations that serve to strengthen society through research, innovation, public policy, direct service, and advocacy.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Explore collections, reference services, and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at, and register creative works of authorship at