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Tressie Souders (1897-1995) was an African American film director. She is the first known African American female to direct a feature film. She was born in Frankfort, Kansas, to Robert Souders and Leuvenia Ann Bryant, who emigrated to Kansas as part of the Exoduster movement. The couple split, and Leuvenia remarried Chester A. Harris. There were six more children born into this union.
Souders grew up in Frankfort and graduated from Frankfort High School in 1918. She then moved to Kansas City, MO, where she found employment as a domestic worker. There are no historical records of how Souders began filmmaking. She participated in an amateur theater production entitled “Every Negro” written by Reverend A. Lawerence Kimbrough in 1918.
In 1922, the Afro-American Film Exhibitors Company of Kansas City, Missouri, contracted with Souders to distribute her film, “A Woman’s Error.”; making Souders the first known black woman to produce and direct a feature film. It was billed as being “produced by a young woman of our race and has been passed by critics as a picture accurate to Negro life.” To date, no copies of the film have been located. Souders is also believed to have written the screenplay for the film.Continue reading “Tressie Souders: The First Known African American Woman To Direct A Feature Film”