The Paul Robeson Student Awards

The Paul Robeson Student Awards were created in the late 1980s, by what was then known as the Howard University Department of Radio, Television and Film, to honor professional and student media excellence. The awards also honor the spirit of a great champion of human rights; the noted artist, scholar, and activist, Paul Robeson (1898-1976).

About The Paul Robeson Student Awards

The Department of Media, Journalism and Film in the Howard University Cathy Hughes School of Communications in Washington, DC, initiated the Paul Robeson Awards during the 1980s.

Paul Robeson Smiling Portrait
Paul Robeson

Through the awards, the Department pays tribute to Paul Robeson (April 9, 1898 - January 23, 1976), a gifted scholar, athlete, and one of the most celebrated artists of his day on the silver screen, theatrical and concert stages and in the recording studio. Robeson artistry and his commitment to advocating for freedom and positive social change worldwide inspired generations.

In his honor, the Department’s Paul Robeson Awards recognizes some of the best work by our journalism, audio production, television production and film production students.

During the 2024 Paul Robeson Student Awards ceremony, the Department will honor the best student works along with Oscar nominated screenwriter and playwright, Kemp Powers – writer of One Night in Harlem; and co-director of Soul; Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Star Trek: Discovery.

The MET Building
300 Bryant Street NW
Washington, D.C.  20001


Jami Ramberan, Associate Professor

Vasilios Papaioannu, Assistant Professor 


Kemp Powers - 2024 Paul Robeson Professional Honoree

Kemp Powers Headshot
Kemp Powers Photo © Damu Malik

Kemp Powers is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He is best known for his play One Night in Miami and the 2020 film adaptation of the same name, as well as for co-directing the animated films “Soul” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”. His screenplay for “One Night in Miami” earned him a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the 93rd Academy Awards, while his work on “Soul” made him the first African-American to co-direct a Disney animated feature. Before his work on stage, television, and film, Powers was a journalist for 17 years.


What steps can I take to submit my work?

Fill out the online form and select your best broadcast journalism or digital journalism work, feature or short screenplay, audio production, or film and television production. It's that simple!

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.”  - Paul Robeson


Paul Robeson Portrait
Paul Robeson

Our invited guests and speakers for the Paul Robeson Student Awards come from a diverse set of backgrounds and disciplines.

Paul Leroy Robeson (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was an African American artist who attained worldwide celebrity achieved by few others. Despite his considerable fame as a singer and star of the stage and screen, Robeson’s greatest achievement was selflessly serving as a champion of the battle for human rights on a global scale. He was both celebrated and condemned for his outspoken activism and dedication to social justice.

Past Paul Robeson Award student winners

A partial list of Past Paul Robeson Award student winners include: 

  • Hans Charles                 Peabody Award-winning Cinematographer (13th; All American: Homecoming)
  • Deborah Ayorinde         Actor, Director (Riches, Them; Girls Trip; Harriet)
  • Kyle Murdock                 Emmy Award-winning Sound Designer/Composer (Vote; Proxima Studio)
  • Faraday Okoro               Director, Screenwriter (Nigerian Prince)
  • Maya King                      Reporter, The New York Times
  • Be Steadwell                  Director, Producer, Singer/Songwriter (Vow of Silence)
  • Keith Alexander             Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post Journalist

Our Past Professional Honorees

Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2021

Gina Prince-Bythewood is a prolific director, producer, and screenwriter whose work includes the modern-day classics Love and Basketball, Disappearing Acts, and Beyond the Lights. She also served as the showrunner of Shots Fired, the Fox limited series about the aftermath of a police-involved shooting, starring Sanaa Lathan. In 2020, Prince-Bythewood helmed The Old Guard, an action movie about soldiers with unique powers starring Kiki Layne and Charlize Theron. It marks the first comic book movie adaptation directed by a Black woman. In 2022, she directed the blockbuster The Woman King, set in the 19th century about the women warriors from the Dahomey tribe.

Abraham “Abiyi” Ford, 2019

Professor Emeritus Abraham “Abiyi” Ford was the founding Chair of the Department of Radio, Television and Film in Howard University’s School of Communications. A documentary filmmaker and two-time Fulbright scholar, Professor Ford’s approach to filmmaking and education was that of elevating the African, Caribbean and African American experiences. Ford was also Head of the MFA in Film Program, the only graduate film program at an HBCU. After retiring from Howard in 2006, Professor Ford returned to Ethiopia where at Addis Ababa University, he was instrumental in establishing the School of Journalism and Communication where he served as its founding Dean.

Arthur "AJ" Jafa, 2017

Arthur Jafa, a graduate of Howard University, is a director, Sundance award-winning cinematographer, video artist and cultural critic who was born in Mississippi in 1960. He was the producer and cinematographer for Daughters of the Dust (1992), the cinematographer for Crooklyn (1994), and also worked on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999). His 2014 film Dreams Are Colder Than Death premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the New York Film Festival and won the award for Best Feature Documentary at the Black Star Film Festival. Jafa's worked with fellow Howard University film alumnus Alan Ferguson on videos for Solange Knowles' 2016 album "A Seat at the Table." 

Stanley Nelson, 2017

Stanley Nelson is one of the foremost chroniclers of the African American experience. A documentary director and producer, his films combine compelling narratives with deeply researched historical details, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past. Nelson, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, received a Peabody Award for his body of work in 2016, along with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. His recent films include Attica (2021) shortlisted for a 2022 Academy Award, the NAACP Image Award-winning The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2018), and the Grammy-nominated and double Emmy Award-winning Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2020).

Bradford Young, 2015

Bradford Young studied film at Howard University, where he was influenced by Haile Gerima. He was director of photography on the feature films Pariah (2011), Restless City (2011), Middle of Nowhere (2012), Mother of George (2013) and Selma (2014). He has won Cinematography Awards at the Sundance Film Festival twice: in 2011, for his work on Pariah, and in 2013 for his work on both Mother of George and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. In 2017, Young became the first African American cinematographer to be nominated for an Academy Award, for his work on Arrival. His work on Arrival also earned him a Silver Frog award from Camerimage and nominations for BAFTA and American Society of Cinematographers awards.

Ava DuVernay, 2015

Ava DuVernay's best-known works explore the African American experience. She has made history as the first African American woman to win Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival, be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe, direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and direct a film with a budget over $100 million. As a filmmaker and producer, her work has made her the highest grossing Black woman director in American box office history. Her latest project, When They See Us, was nominated for 16 Emmy awards, making her and Beyoncé the first African American women in Primetime Emmy history to receive multiple nominations in their careers for directing. DuVernay graduated from the UCLA in 1995 with bachelor's degrees in English and African American studies.

Additional Professional Honorees

2012                 Ernest Dickerson                      Cinematographer, Director

2011                  Kasi Lemmons                          Director, Screenwriter, Actor

2010                  Julie Dash                                 Director, Screenwriter

2009                  Sam Pollard                              Editor, Director

2008                  William Greaves                       Documentary Director, Producer

2007                  Cathy Hughes                           Media (TV & Radio) Entrepreneur

2006                  Raoul Peck                                Director, Producer

2005                  Ossie Davis                               Actor, Director, Producer, Screenwriter

2004                  Gregory Allen Howard             Screenwriter, Author

2003                  Harry Belafonte                        Actor, Singer, Producer, Activist

2002                  Spike Lee                                   Director, Producer, Screenwriter

2001                  Haile Gerima                              Director, Producer, Screenwriter

2000                  Orlando Bagwell                       Documentary Producer, Director

1999                  Euzhan Palcy                             Director, Writer, Producer

1998                  Gordon Parks, Sr.                      Director, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Author

1993                 Charles Burnett                          Director/Scriptwriter


Also in the 1990s

Carl Franklin                             Director, Producer

Russell Williams                       Sound Mixer     

Al Freeman, Jr.                         Actor, Director



Carlton Moss                           Director, Screenwriter, Actor

George Murphy                       Journalist

Ousmane Sembene                Director, Writer, Producer, “Father” of African Cinema

Paul Robeson smiling at piano with sheet music
Paul Robeson

Want to support The Paul Robeson Student Awards?

On the donation form click the box "Make this gift on behalf of an organization" and enter "Paul Robeson Student Awards"


How do I register?

Submit your project for consideration by completing the online form. The event is free for Howard University Students. Eligibility: ONLY works completed between Jan 2023 to Jan 2024.

What audio-visual formats are accepted?

We accept all file formats including WAV, MP4, PDFs, and MP4/H264 CODEC.

When is the submissions deadline?

The deadline for submissions for the 2024 Paul Robeson Student awards is February 29th.

How do I become a Professional Honoree?

Honorees are nominated and selected by Howard's Paul Robeson Student Awards Commitee

How do I become an event sponsor?

Get in touch with one of our committee members and someone will get back to you with information.

How do I volunteer to staff the event?

Thank you for your interest in supporting the event! Reach out to one of our committee members and they can help set you up to volunteer.