John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards


The John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards were established in 1990 by the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS). The Awards are named for the noted scholar John Hope Franklin, the late professor emeritus of history at Duke University, in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments and his dedication to students and teaching. The Center for Documentary Studies makes these awards to undergraduates attending Triangle-area universities to help them conduct sustained work on summer-long documentary fieldwork projects.


Student applicants should demonstrate an interest in documentary studies and possess the talent and skills necessary to conduct an intensive documentary project. These skills may include oral history, photography, film/video, nonfiction or creative writing, or audio. Applicants must be registered undergraduate students at Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Application Guidelines

CDS welcomes both individual and collaborative proposals. Applicants should write a proposal describing the focus of their documentary project and the medium/media they will use. CDS sets no restrictions on the subject of the project but does want to see work that explores some aspect of the human condition, and that expands understanding of people’s lives. Students who wish to work collaboratively on a project should submit a single proposal with appropriate supporting material for each student.

Applicants must submit the following:

  • 2- to 3-page letter of application describing the project. Include a statement about the importance of the project, the methods to be used, project goals for the summer, and a title for the project.
  • Résumé including name, university, year, email address, street address, and phone number.
  • 2 letters of recommendation, one from a professor and another from someone outside academia. These should be emailed directly by the persons writing the recommendations to the Assistant to the Undergraduate Education Director at CDS, at
  • Sample work in the form to be used for the project (for example, 5-minute video, 10 to 20 photos by email or as prints, 5-page writing sample). Video samples should be sent as links to pieces on Vimeo or YouTube.
  • Short budget outline detailing projected costs for supplies, travel, accommodations, and other expenses related to fieldwork.
  • Except for the letters of recommendation, which should come directly from the persons writing the recommendations, we prefer that the applicant send all other materials in a single email to the Assistant to the Undergraduate Education Director at CDS, at

Awards of up to $2,000 will be made by the week of April 24, 2023. The award amount will be reported to the winners on a 1099-Miscellaneous tax form. It is the responsibility of the winners to file their tax liability. Award recipients may consult with CDS staff and use CDS facilities while working on their projects. Award recipients may have access to some production equipment from CDS, depending on availability. Final projects will be archived at Duke.

Submissions will be accepted February 13 to March 6, 2023. Entries must be e-mailed no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, March 6, 2023.

You will receive confirmation by March 20, 2023, that your application was received. If you do not receive confirmation by then, please email

Questions: email, and include “JHF Awards” in your subject line.