Profile

Tressie Souders
director
maid
producer
screenwriter
It was in 1922 that the Black press named the filmmaker Tressie Souders the first African-American woman director.
US

Tressie Souders

Lived:
Unknown - Unknown
Also Known As:
Tressie Saunders, Tressa Souders
Worked as:
director, producer, screenwriter
Worked In:
United States
by Kyna Morgan

It was in 1922 that the Black press named the filmmaker Tressie Souders the first African American woman director. Her film, A Woman’s Error (1922), was distributed by the Afro-American Film Exhibitors’ Company based in Kansas City, Missouri. The company seems to have handled only two titles about African Americans, one of them A Woman’s Error. To date, the one source that has led scholars to Souders and her film is Henry T. Sampson’s Blacks in Black and White (188). Sampson’s reference book mentions that this obscure figure not only directed but produced and wrote the screenplay for A Woman’s Error (626). Although in this source her surname appears as Saunders, it is likely that this is the same woman covered in the black press from this era. In her dissertation, “Sisters of Cinema,” Yvonne Welbon quotes The Billboard which refers proudly in their review of A Woman’s Error to  “the first of its kind to be produced by a young woman of our race” and, most importantly, they see it as a “picture true to Negro life” (40). What little information can be gleaned beyond Samson’s references can be found in the City Directory of Kansas City, Missouri, for 1921, which contains an entry for a Souders who is listed as “Tressa maid 5500 Ward Parkway.” With this we can establish the fact of her existence and are led to want to discover more about both the woman as well as the story told in a film with the intriguing title of A Woman’s Error.

With additional research by Aimee Dixon.

 


Selected Bibliography

This essay does not have a selected bibliography. Please see the African-American bibliography for more resources.

Complete Project Bibliographies

Filmography

B. Filmography: Not Extant Titles:

1. Tressie Souders as Producer/Director/Screenwriter

A Woman’s Error, 1922.

Citation

Morgan, Kyna. "Tressie Souders." In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013. Web.   September 27, 2013.   <https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/tressie-souders-2/>

Related

Below are lists of other pioneers that are related to Tressie Souders by occupation or geography.

Occupation: directors


Occupation: producers


Occupation: screenwriters


Place: United States