Ken Burns, the award-winning documentarian who pioneered a new genre of historical filmmaking, recently delivered the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

View the lecture on race in America now.

“I am honored to have been selected to deliver the Jefferson Lecture in its fiftieth anniversary year,” says Ken. “The humanities are an integral part of every citizen’s life, and they are inextricably bound up in my life’s work, that is, trying to record the epic verses of our complicated republic’s history. The NEH in particular has been and continues to be an important force in my life, permitting me to interpret the faint traces and distant signals that echo from our inexpressibly wise past. For me, the honor of giving this lecture is beyond expression.”

The Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities and is produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NEH has awarded 15 grants to Burns over three decades – from his first film in 1981, Brooklyn Bridge (which was nominated for an Academy Award), to the forthcoming The Vietnam War, which will premiere on PBS this fall.