The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors announced the 60 nominees selected to represent the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and streaming media during 2021. The nominees were chosen by a unanimous vote of 19 jurors from over 1,200 entries from television, podcasts/radio and the web in entertainment, news, documentary, arts, children’s/youth, and public service.
“Following yet another turbulent year, Peabody is proud to honor an array of stories that poignantly and powerfully help us make sense of the challenges we face as a nation and world,” said Jeffrey Jones, executive director of Peabody. “Demonstrating the immense power of stories, these nominees exposed our societal failures and celebrated the best of the human spirit. They are all worthy of recognition, and Peabody is proud to celebrate them.”
Offering engaging content by expert storytellers from underrepresented groups, this year’s nominated programs encompass a wide range of pressing issues, including reporting of the January 6th insurrection, Afghanistan’s past and future, abortion access, trans rights, and the continuing struggle over policing and criminal justice reform, among many other topics. The Peabody Awards are based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
“Peabody is thrilled to continue its tradition of honoring the very best in storytelling, particularly from diverse and emerging voices,” added Monica Pearson, chairperson of the Peabody Board of Jurors. “While covering a wide array of pressing world issues and powerful human themes, all of these programs demonstrate how great art and great journalism help us see truth more clearly.”
Of the 60 nominations, PBS and HBO lead with thirteen and eight, respectively, followed by Hulu and Netflix (five each), The New York Times and NBC (four), and ABC, Amazon Prime, BBC, and SHOWTIME (two each).
The 30 winners of the 82nd annual Peabody Awards will be named during a multi-day virtual celebration from June 6th through June 9th. Celebrity presenters will announce each winner via a short video which will include remarks from the winners. Videos will be shared June 6-9, between 9 a.m. PT and 10:30 a.m. PT each day on the following platforms:
The Peabody Award Nominees, listed by category and in alphabetical order (network/platform in parentheses) are:
- “Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s rousing directorial debut chronicles the seminal 1969 celebration of Black history, music, and fashion, The Harlem Cultural Festival, through interviews and largely forgotten footage of performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, and many more.
A Vulcan Productions Inc. Production, In Association with Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, Produced by Mass Distraction Media and RadicalMedia. (Searchlight Pictures, Onyx Collective, Hulu)
CHILDREN’S & YOUTH
The “Ghost Club” ventures around Los Angeles interviewing ghosts and learning about the city’s multicultural history in this joyful, educational, and wildly entertaining animated series.
A Netflix Original Series (Netflix)
Colin Kaepernick narrates this youthful, coming-of-age drama about his upbringing as a football star aspiring to greatness, grappling with his racial identity, and learning to stand up for his beliefs.
ARRAY for Netflix (Netflix)
- “9to5: The Story of a Movement”
Directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar tell the story of the real-life secretarial labor movement that inspired the hit 1980 film and changed American offices forever.
Working Women Documentary Project LLC, ITVS (PBS)
Through new interviews with survivors of the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility, as well as observers, experts, and government officials, this documentary sheds new light on the violent standoff between Black and Latino inmates and law enforcement officers while highlighting the ongoing need for prison reform.
SHOWTIME Documentary Films Presents A Firelight Films Production, In Association with Topic Studios (SHOWTIME)
High school athletics have become a key battleground in the fight for trans rights, and this documentary highlights several who are not only competing at top levels but also challenging gender boundaries.
Hulu, Superfilms Productions, Foton Pictures, Glanzrock Productions (Hulu)
PBS’s two-part series delves into how the Confederate flag has affected the people, politics, and perception of South Carolina—and how this reflects America’s continued reckoning with its racial history.
South Carolina ETV, Strategic Films, Susie Films (PBS)
- “Exterminate All the Brutes”
In this four-part docuseries, filmmaker Raoul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”) explores the devastating effects of European colonialism, from Native American genocide and American slavery forward, through its effects today. It unpacks three seminal works—Sven Lindqvist’s “Exterminate All the Brutes,” Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s “An Indigenous People’s History of the United States,” and Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past—Exterminate All the Brutes”—through documentary footage, archival material, animation, and interpretive scripted scenes.
HBO/HBO Max (HBO/HBO Max)
- “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America”
This sumptuous four-episode series traces the ways Black food has influenced American culture and history, guided by host and chef Stephen Satterfield.
A One Story Up Production for Netflix (Netflix)
This eye-opening work, full of shockingly powerful footage, traces the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as it begins in Wuhan, China, and shows how cover-ups and misinformation scrambled worldwide response even as some sought to call attention to the truth.
HBO Documentary Films Presents a Motto Pictures/Little Horse Crossing the River/ Little Lantern Company Production (HBO/HBO Max)
- “Life of Crime 1984-2020”
For 36 years, documentarian Jon Alpert followed three friends from Newark, New Jersey, as they struggled with addiction, prison stints, rehab, employment, and family. The result is a heartbreaking portrait of the toll that drugs can take on a life.
HBO Documentary Films in association with DCTV (HBO/HBO Max)
- “Lynching Postcards: ‘Token of a Great Day’”
This chilling short film confronts America’s shocking racist history through the postcards attendees bought, sold, and sent to celebrate their time at the public lynchings of their Black neighbors in the 19th and 20th centuries—a work made all the more vital by the fact that U.S. President Joe Biden only just recently signed an anti-lynching law.
MTV Documentary Films, Firelight Films, Peralta Pictures (MTV Documentary Films)
Toggling between moments of banal bureaucracy and terrifying warfare, filmmaker David Osit captures the rhythms of life under occupation for Musa Hadid, the mayor of Palestine’s de facto capital of Ramallah.
American Documentary: POV (PBS)
The behind-the-scenes story of “America’s first Black ‘Tonight Show,’” this celebratory film dives into the public television variety show “SOUL!”, which ran from 1968 to 1973. “SOUL!” producer and host Ellis Haizlip brought viewers an unapologetically Black experience, recognizing contemporary luminaries of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics.
Shoes In The Bed Productions, ITVS, Black Public Media (BPM) (PBS)
- “My Name is Pauli Murray”
This documentary from the directors of “RBG,” Julie Cohen and Betsy West, illuminates the remarkable—and remarkably little-known—life of Pauli Murray, a nonbinary, Black lawyer, activist, and poet who influenced the work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall.
Drexler Films, Storyville Films (Prime Video)
In this three-part series, filmmaker Ry Russo-Young delves into her own upbringing by two lesbian mothers via sperm donor in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, a time when LGBTQ parents were rare. An unexpected lawsuit caused her to rethink the meaning of the word “family.”
HBO Documentary Films, Big Beach, Impact Partners, and Topic Studios present in association with Sustainable Films and BUNKER (HBO/HBO Max)
As riveting as any TV show, this eight-part docuseries introduces Larry Krasner, who spent 30 years fighting the district attorney’s office as a civil rights lawyer before he was elected to the position himself—and thus faces the challenge of his life, trying to change the system from within.
All Ages Productions, Department of Motion Pictures, ITVS (PBS)
This arresting and unusual film by Robert Greene demonstrates the healing power of art and friendship as a group of men process their sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests through fictionalized reenactments of their trauma.
A Netflix Documentary / A 4th Row Films Production in Partnership with Concordia Studios & Impact Partners in association with Artemis Rising Foundation (Netflix)
- “The Queen of Basketball”
From executive producers Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry comes this engrossing profile of Lucy Harris, who scored the first points in women’s Olympic basketball and was the first woman officially drafted into the National Basketball Association, but has remained widely unknown.
The New York Times / Breakwater Studios (The New York Times Op-Docs)
Four Syrian families process the aftermath of war in this documentary from Megan Mylan, filmed over five years in five countries. The resulting film reveals how family bonds help us to survive the ravages of war, separation, and displacement.
HBO Documentary Films and Principe Productions in association with Inmaat Productions, JustFilms/Ford Foundation (HBO/HBO Max)
As small-town newspapers wither and die in the internet age, the family who runs The Storm Lake Times in Iowa does everything they can to keep local journalism alive. This inspiring tale shows how hard it is, even for a Pulitzer Prize-winning paper that’s nationally renowned because of its unusual power, thanks to the Iowa presidential caucuses.
Whole Hog Films, LLC, ITVS (PBS)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a master at weaponizing social media to spread disinformation in his own favor and against his detractors. This gripping film follows one of his prime targets, journalist Maria Ressa, as she battles him along with her news site Rappler.
FRONTLINE (PBS / GBH / FRONTLINE)
Multi-faceted performer Bo Burnham offers up a comedy special for the pandemic age: Made entirely on his own during lockdown, this combination of monologue, song, and sketch reflects a time when so many wrestled with anxiety, existential dread, and loneliness, giving viewers a way to laugh and relate through the pain.
Executive producers Danny Strong and Michael Keaton take viewers into the heart of the opioid crisis, showing how one company nefariously created the worst drug epidemic in American history through lies, PR, and good salesmanship. Also starring Keaton, Rosario Dawson, Peter Sarsgaard, and Kaitlyn Dever, the sprawling story includes the Sackler family operation behind the epidemic, the residents of a small Virginia mining community victimized by the false marketing, and the DEA agents caught in between.
Hulu, Danny Strong Productions, John Goldwyn Productions, The Littlefield Company, 20th Television (Hulu)
In this hilarious and insightful series, Jean Smart plays an aging standup comic being sidelined from her longtime Vegas show. She begrudgingly hires a Gen Z comedy writer, played by Hannah Einbinder, who lost her job after a questionable tweet, allowing the women to work out generational differences in feminism, humor, and womanhood through their work together.
Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Paulilu, First Thought Productions, Fremulon Productions, 3 Arts Entertainment (HBO/HBO Max)
PBS’s “Masterpiece” miniseries beautifully adapts Andrea Levy’s novel about the end of slavery in Jamaica, focusing on July, an enslaved woman on a sugarcane plantation who is unflinching in the face of her insufferable mistress, Caroline.
Heyday Television, which is part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group (PBS)
- “Only Murders in the Building”
This one-of-a-kind mystery-comedy features the superstar, intergenerational trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez playing lonely misfits in a posh New York City apartment building who join forces hoping to solve a murder in their complex—and make a true-crime podcast about it all.
Hulu, 20th Television (Hulu)
Creator-stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle conclude their unique two-season middle school comedy as adults playing their 13-year-old selves in the year 2000. It’s as uncomfortable—and relatable—as ever.
Hulu, Awesomeness TV, Odenkirk Provissiero, Lonely Island Classics (Hulu)
With a young cast full of fresh discoveries, this series follows the everyday lives of four indigenous teens in rural Oklahoma as they steal, scrimp, and save their way toward their dream life in faraway California.
FX Productions (FX)
This fully inhabited portrait of a floundering 20-something centers a nonbinary character, Sabi, but makes gender only one part of their overall search for identity as a Pakistani-Canadian nanny, bartender, sister, friend, and adult.
Sienna Films Inc (HBO Max)
This post-apocalyptic drama based on Emily St. John Mandel’s novel follows several characters through a devastating flu pandemic and its aftermath 20 years later as they try to rebuild community through art, despite opposition from a violent cult with a charismatic leader.
HBO Max presents a Paramount Television Studios Production in association with Tractor Beam Productions, Shadowfox Productions, Stone Village Television, Inc., Pacesetter Productions, and Super Frog (HBO/HBO Max)
- “The Underground Railroad”
Barry Jenkins created this fantasy/historical drama based on the book by Colson Whitehead, telling the magical realist tale of Cora, an enslaved woman in Georgia, riding an imagined underground railroad—trains and all—to freedom.
Plan B, PASTEL, Big Indie with Amazon Studios (Amazon Prime)
This fresh, feel-good comedy follows the lives and loves of a four-girl Muslim punk band in London, complete with rollicking performances of original songs (“Bashir With the Good Beard,” “Voldemort Under My Headscarf”) co-written by the show’s creator, Nida Manzoor, with her siblings.
Working Title Television, a part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group (Peacock)
This new take on the 1980s series of the same name centers a Black boy named Dean Williams as he comes of age in the late 1960s in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s the rare reboot to tackle serious issues, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s death and the Civil Rights movement, while also allowing for sweet nostalgia.
20th Television (ABC)
An exceptional high school girls’ soccer team goes “Lord of the Flies” when their plane crashes in the wilderness in the 1990s, then reunites 25 years later in this chilling examination of female friendship and lingering trauma.
SHOWTIME Presents, Entertainment One (SHOWTIME)
- “Afghanistan: Documenting A Crucial Year”
BBC World News America goes in-depth on the effort to end the United States’ longest war.
BBC World News (BBC World News America)
This examination of far-right extremism in America traces the path from the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally to the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in a reporting collaboration among “Frontline,” ProPublica, and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program.
FRONTLINE, ProPublica, and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program (PBS / GBH / FRONTLINE)
A “Nightline” crew goes along on a young Texas woman’s journey across state lines to seek an abortion, showing the ways increasingly strict laws in some states require women to go to extremes in exercising their legal right to choose.
ABC News Nightline (ABC News Nightline)
- “Day of Rage: How Trump Supporters Took the U.S. Capitol”
This short documentary forensic film is the culmination of a six-month investigation in which The New York Times compiled thousands of videos and police audio from the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol to form a complete picture of what happened that day.
The New York Times (The New York Times)
“Nightline” conducted an unprecedented investigation into the repressive regime of Eritrea, producing secret footage and interviews that reveal torture, unjust imprisonment, and forced conscription.
FRONTLINE, Channel 4 (PBS / GBH / FRONTLINE)
“Frontline” and NPR expose the inequalities in the American healthcare system exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how financial pressures and uneven government support have furthered the differences between wealthy and poor hospitals and patients.
FRONTLINE, NPR, Investigative Reporting Workshop (PBS / GBH / FRONTLINE)
PBS NewsHour’s special correspondent Jane Ferguson goes to the frontlines with Yemeni soldiers as they fight Iran-backed Houthi rebels after U.S. president Joe Biden announced an end to American support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
PBS NewsHour (PBS NewsHour)
“PBS NewsHour” correspondent Lisa Desjardins was the only journalist reporting live from inside the Capitol as insurrectionists stormed the building on January 6, 2021, to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes that certified Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. Desjardins’ courageous reporting provided a vital document of a critical turning point in American democracy.
PBS NewsHour (PBS NewsHour)
- “The Moms of Magnolia Street”
One of two pieces from NBC Bay Area that investigates the challenges of homeless parents. “The Moms of Magnolia Street” documents how a group of unhoused mothers in Oakland banded together to find—and fight for—a unique solution to the area’s affordability crisis.
NBC Bay Area (NBC Bay Area)
- “Nima Elbagir: Human Rights Investigations in Ethiopia”
CNN’s chief international investigative correspondent, Nima Elbagir, exposed widespread human rights atrocities by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in the Tigray region.
CNN, Elephant Media (CNN)
- “No Man’s Land: Fighting for Fatherhood in a Broken System”
One of two pieces from NBC Bay Area that investigates the challenges of homeless parents. “No Man’s Land” follows several men as they try desperately to care for their children but are repeatedly turned away from homeless shelters and services because of inherent biases in the system against single fathers.
NBC Bay Area (NBC Bay Area)
Arizona’s ABC15 investigated Phoenix police and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, uncovering evidence that officials invented a fictional gang and gave other false testimony to prosecute the activists protesting against them.
ABC15 Arizona (KNXV) (ABC15 Arizona (KNXV))
Denver’s KUSA-TV spent two years investigating the use of the prone position in arrests across the country after George Floyd died handcuffed and facedown, pinned under an officer’s knee. The team—with contributions from reporters in eight other cities—found at least 130 other similar cases since 2010 and built a database documenting their findings, which could then be used by other news stations in other cities. After versions of the documentary aired in Denver and Minneapolis, both police departments mandated additional training about the dangers of this type of restraint.
- “‘So They Knew We Existed’: Palestinians Film War in Gaza”
Palestinians in Gaza used their phones to film the 11-day war there in May 2021 between Israel and Hamas. The New York Times spoke to some of them and shared their footage as well as their stories. As one said: “I removed the password from my phone so that if we didn’t make it out, and we were killed, people would know what happened to us. So they know we existed.”
The New York Times (The New York Times)
This VICE series covers transgender communities around the world, from India’s only Quran school for trans Muslims and the Detroit ballroom scene to trans activists fighting for U.K. health coverage and Mexico’s first shelter built by and for trans people who are former sex workers.
VICE News (VICE News Tonight)
- “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning”
WNYC and the History Channel revisit the 1921 white supremacist mob attack on Tulsa’s thriving Black business district of Greenwood with the hindsight of a century past and renewed interest in the buried parts of America’s racial history.
The HISTORY Channel / WNYC Studios / KOSU (WNYC Studios)
This joint effort between Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Newsy reports on how Louisville’s ambitious plans to transform police relations with the Black community disintegrated to the point that, five years later, the city became a national flashpoint when officers killed Breonna Taylor in her home. The investigation reveals critical mistakes that inform the ongoing national debate over police reform.
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Newsy (WFPL News Louisville)
Rumble Strip Vermont host Erica Heilman dives deep into the life of Finn Rooney, a teenager who died by suicide in 2020, and the small Vermont community he left behind struggling with the tragedy.
Rumble Strip (Rumble Strip)
This WHYY series tells the riveting story of a 22-year-old with no healthcare experience who talked his way into a COVID-19 vaccine distribution deal in hopes of making millions. Instead, his company collapsed, leaving thousands waiting for vaccines that never came. This podcast considers how he ended up with so much power and whether he was a scam artist—or a mere incompetent opportunist.
WHYY and Billy Penn (WHYY)
- “The Improvement Association”
Former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” is shot through a local lens as Serial Productions examines “a true story about election fraud” in Bladen County, North Carolina, and reveals the racial fault lines and coded messages at the heart of discussions about electoral legitimacy.
Serial Productions (The New York Times)
BBC goes deep on the sprawling, epic story of the hacking ring that began with the 2014 release of internal Sony emails that rocked Hollywood and was blamed on North Korea—but went much wider and deeper, including an attempt to steal a billion dollars.
Long Form Audio, BBC News for BBC World Service (BBC World Service)
- “Mississippi Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe”
Reveal host Al Letson makes good on a promise to find out what really happened to Billey Joe Johnson Jr., a Black high schooler whose dreams of going to college and playing pro football ended when he died during a 2008 traffic stop. Authorities said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the confrontation with a white sheriff’s deputy, but the boy’s family always had doubts.
Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX (public radio stations nationwide, the Reveal podcast, distributed by PRX)
- “Radiotopia Presents: S***hole Country”
Radiotopia’s eight-part series features a young Bay Area woman, Afia Kaakyire, as she grapples with an intriguing dilemma: Should she move to her parents’ homeland of Ghana, where they’ll put her up in an apartment in their complex rent-free, or keep struggling to make ends meet as a creative worker in a vastly overpriced rental market in a country grappling with its racist past (and present)?
Radiotopia from PRX (Radiotopia from PRX)
NBC News dives into battles over racism and the teaching of American history through a racial lens in one of the best school districts in Texas.
NBC News Audio (NBC News)
The Crooked Media series, hosted by Native journalist Rebecca Nagle, looks into how the far right is using Native children, via a critical adoption dispute in Texas, to destroy American Indian tribes from within. The deep investigation is a testament to the power of the press and the Freedom of Information Act to reveal unsettling truths.
Crooked Media, Critical Frequency (Crooked Media)
This NPR series plumbs the history behind current headlines to provide necessary historical context, from American Socialism and Ayn Rand to Y2K and the Arab Spring.
Throughline (podcast platforms)
About Peabody Awards
Respected for its integrity and revered for its standards of excellence, the Peabody is an honor like no other for television, podcast/radio, and digital media. Chosen each year by a diverse Board of Jurors through unanimous vote, Peabody Awards are given in the categories of entertainment, documentary, news, podcast/radio, arts, children’s and youth, and public service. The annual Peabody winners are a collection of 30 stories that powerfully reflect the pressing social issues and the vibrant emerging voices of our day. From major productions to local journalism, the Peabody Awards shine a light on the Stories That Matter and are a testament to the power of art and reportage in the push for truth, social justice, and equity. The Peabody Awards were founded in 1940 at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and are still based in Athens today.