KEN BURNS

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SPEECH TITLES AND/OR TOPICS   Click Here for Detailed Description

  • Race in America
  • The National Parks

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After Dinner Speaker | Communications | Entertainment | Sports

Biography

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, "More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source." A December 2002 poll conducted by RealScreen Magazine listed The Civil War as second only to Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North as the "most influential documentary of all time" and named Ken Burns and Robert Flaherty as the "most influential documentary makers" of all time.

Mr. Burns' latest film, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, is a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. It was filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales--from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska. The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background--rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story full of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration--set against the most breathtaking backdrops imaginable. It is scheduled for airing on PBS on September 27, 2009.

Ken Burns' film, The War was co-directed and produced with his longtime colleague Lynn Novick, and aired on PBS in September 2007. The War is a seven-part series that tells the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of nearly 40 men and women from four American towns. The series explores the most intimate human dimensions of the greatest cataclysm in history and demonstrates that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives.

Mr. Burns' film prior to The War, produced with Paul Barnes, was Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (on PBS in January 2005), the story of the first African-American heavyweight champion. Prior to Unforgivable was Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip, a two-hour account of the first cross-country trip by automobile, co-produced by his longtime collaborator Dayton Duncan. It aired on PBS in October 2003. Mark Twain a two-part, four-hour portrait of America's funniest and most popular writer, was also co-produced with Dayton Duncan and aired on PBS in January 2002. In January 2001, Jazz, the third in his trilogy of epic documentaries, which began with The Civil War and continued with Baseball was broadcast on PBS. Co-produced with Lynn Novick, this 19-hour, 10-part film explores in detail the culture, politics, and dreams that gave birth to jazz music and follows this most American of art forms from its origins in blues and ragtime through swing, bebop and fusion.

Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, winner of the prestigious Peabody Award, was co-produced with Paul Barnes and aired on PBS in November 1999. This dual biography tells the story of the two women who almost single-handedly created and spearheaded the women's rights movement in America, changing for the better the lives of a majority of American citizens.

Frank Lloyd Wright, co-directed and produced with Lynn Novick, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1998 and aired on PBS in November 1998. In 1999, it won the Peabody Award.

In November 1997, Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery was released to critical acclaim and garnered the second-highest ratings in public television history. This four-hour film, co-produced with Dayton Duncan, chronicles the corps' journey westward on the first official expedition into uncharted spaces in United States history.

Thomas Jefferson, a three-hour portrait of America's third president, aired on PBS in February 1997. This film explores the contradictions in the man who was revered as the author of the most sacred document in American history and condemned as a lifelong owner of slaves.

In fall 1996, The West, an eight-part, 12-hour film series on the American west was released. The West is the story of one of the great crossroads in human history, a place where, tragically and heroically, the best of us met the worst of us and nothing was left unchanged. This highly praised series won the 1997 Erik Barnouw Prize.

Ken Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of the public television series Baseball. Four and a half years in the making and 18 hours in length, this film covers the history of baseball from the 1840s to the present. Through the extensive use of archival photographs and newsreel footage, baseball as a mirror of our larger society was brought to the screen over nine nights during its premiere in September 1994. It became the most watched series in PBS history, attracting more than 45 million viewers. Baseball received numerous awards, including an Emmy, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the Clarion Award and the Television Critics Association Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Sports and Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Mini-Series & Specials.

Ken Burns was also the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of the landmark television series The Civil War. This film was the highest-rated series in the history of American public television, prior to Baseball, and attracted an audience of 40 million during its premiere in September 1990. The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Producer of the Year Award from the Producer's Guild, a People's Choice Award, a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a D. W. Griffiths Award and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.

Ken Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1975.

BOOKS    Search For A Book

  • Ken Burn's Photographs Illustrate:

    Horatio's Drive: America''s First Road Trip

  • The West: An Illustrated History
  • Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
  • Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography
  • Ken Burns''s America
  • Jazz: A History of America''s Music Hardcover

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