Nathaniel Ball: From History Student to Star Filmmaker – Where Are They Now?

By Anjali Gahlaut

Nathaniel Collins Ball

The Hooks Institute’s “Where Are They Now?” series explores how the institute has shaped the lives and careers of former alumni. The series uncovers valuable experiences, skills, and lessons that former alumni acquired during their time at Hooks.

A familiar face at the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, Nathaniel Ball’s involvement as a graduate student landed him a full-time job with Hooks as Media Initiatives and Program Support (2015) before being promoted to Assistant Director (2021).

In 2013, Ball began working at the Hooks Institute as a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in History. Ball initially applied to Hooks after receiving an email from the University of Memphis regarding opportunities on campus. “Hooks looked very promising,” Ball explains. “Especially the aspect of creating films, because my undergraduate work was in Film. History and film have always been my two loves.” The Hooks Institute allows their graduate assistants to participate in self-directed projects—specifically within the domains of civil rights and social change. This aspect was especially appealing to Ball, who co-produced a short documentary film titled “The Civil Rights Movement: A Cultural Revolution” as a graduate assistant.

According to Ball, the structure of the Hooks Institute is a beneficial environment for graduate students. “My job [at Hooks] was really the first professional type job that I had. I think the Hooks Institute, as opposed to other graduate internships on campus, is very close to a corporate or an organizational nonprofit structure.” The Hooks Institute teaches its graduate students how to teach, create, and network professionally. Ball states, “I learned how to be a professional. I learned how to network well and how to talk to people. As a graduate student, it was really great to have this environment where I could create and learn outside of my work. I’m very thankful for that.”

Ball accredits his success to both his work at Hooks as well as his mentor, Executive Director Daphene McFerren: “The Hooks Institute has helped me grow as a professional, filmmaker, and creative. In my personal life, it has helped me grow confidence and has helped me see that I can create things that I am proud of. Also, I think Daphene has been a great mentor for me professionally and personally. That sort of mentorship is just invaluable.”

Hear from Nathaniel Ball

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change continues to uplift the Memphis community by funding student success programs such as the Hooks’ African American Male Initiative (HAAMI) and A Seat at the Table (ASAT) and continuing to preserve the history of civil rights. “I really believe that these programs are helping build a better Memphis through education and the attainment of college degrees,” Ball explains, “I believe those who want to see Memphis grow should get involved at Hooks.”

About the Author

Anjali Claire Gahlaut graduated from White Station High School in Memphis, Tennessee and is now a rising sophomore and prospective History major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Anjali spent summer 2022 as an intern at Hooks and joined the team to gain a deeper understanding of Memphis’ history and its impact on marginalized groups. 

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