Lillian E. Benson
Co-Director/Producer/Editor of The Jester Hairston Project - For over 30 years, Lillian Benson has been editing television, programming, and feature films. The New York native was nominated for an Emmy in 1990 for her work on the acclaimed Civil Rights series, Eyes on the Prize II - editing the episode on Dr. King's last years. She soon went on to make her directorial debut with the 2003 documentary All Our Sons - Fallen Heroes of 9/11: the story of the firefighters of color who died at the World Trade Center. The film was broadcast nationally on PBS and subsequently shown at several international film festivals, including FESPACO in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Lillian Benson was the segment producer, co-writer, and editor for the PBS film Shared History. Her PBS film credits include Wired Science, The Meaning of Food, The Great Depression-A Job at Ford's, and Infinite Voyage, which was broadcast on KQED. She was editor of the 2008 Peabody Award winner Craft In America - Community, which premiered on KCET. Lillian Benson has made contributions to films that have been nominated for five Emmys, four Peabody Awards, and numerous other honors. On the narrative side, she was editor for the Lifetime documentary Life is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story and the Paramount/Showtime series Soul Food. Today, she continues to edit documentaries that reflect on the role of minorities and women in society.
Ms. Benson was exposed to spirituals as a young girl; her family traveled south to the Carolinas every summer where she remembers attending revival meetings. What stood out to her, was the richness of the music being sung by the choir and the deep reverence of the singers.
Lillian Benson came to filmmaking after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, and 1991 became the first African American female member of American Cinema Editors: an honorary society of film editors. She currently serves on their board of directors. Ms. Benson is also a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
What Lillian Benson hopes is that the narrative of Jester Hairston's life brings a new generation of musicians, singers, and teachers into the Spiritual fold, where they are able to comprehend and articulate the importance this historical form of music. "Every type of popular music we listen to today has its roots in the songs of the ancestors: the spirituals. Jester Hairston spread that knowledge as he taught and performed. We are simply carrying the tradition further."