National History Day Filmmaker Wins Mentorship with Ken Burns

Knoxville, Tennessee – A sophomore at L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville, Jelena Rose Armsworth, recently won third place in the Senior Individual Documentary category at the National History Day contest in Washington, D.C. Armsworth’s film, titled “‘Indian Magna Carta’: The Proclamation of 1763 and the Indigenous People’s Rights Frontier,” earned her a national award and the opportunity to meet renowned filmmaker Ken Burns. The Next Generation Angels Award (NGAA), given by The Better Angels Society, recognizes exceptional student documentaries and provides mentorship opportunities.

Armsworth’s documentary shed light on the Royal Proclamation of 1763, issued by King George III, which defined the land boundaries of the American colonists using the Appalachian Mountains. While this historical event is mostly known for its role in the American Revolution, Armsworth wanted to highlight its enduring significance in Canada and internationally. She embarked on an extensive research process, delving into archived documents, maps, letters, and paintings to visually depict the proclamation’s impact on Indigenous people.

Despite the challenges of limited visual resources and a strict 10-minute time limit, Armsworth skillfully crafted a compelling narrative. Her film impressed Ken Burns, who commended her use of maps and documents to compensate for the lack of photographs from that era. The copyright she received for her documentary means that it will be preserved in the Library of Congress.

Armsworth’s victory at the National History Day contest not only earned her national recognition but also reaffirmed her passion for documentary filmmaking. She plans to participate in the contest again next year, possibly exploring topics within her favorite school subjects, science or math. Burns encouraged young documentarians like Armsworth to follow their passions and interests, assuring them that their work and lives will be enriched by doing so.

Armsworth’s achievement was not the only success for Tennessee at the contest; a middle school student, Elayna Weintz from Collierville, also secured first place in the middle school division. Ken Burns expressed his admiration for the creative endeavors of Tennesseans, referencing notable storytellers like Jon Meacham, Dolly Parton, and Margaret Renkl. He eagerly anticipates the future contributions of Armsworth and others as they continue to tell the stories of their state and beyond.

Jelena Rose Armsworth’s compelling documentary sheds light on the often-overlooked Proclamation of 1763 and its significant impact on Indigenous rights. Her talent for storytelling and her dedication to her craft earned her recognition at the National History Day contest and the opportunity to collaborate with renowned filmmaker Ken Burns. Armsworth’s success is a testament to the power of following one’s passions and interests, as she continues to inspire through her filmmaking.