Cut to Black: Did You Know? Theresa “Tressie” Souders, Director

For each day in the month of February, the African American Steering Committee will be highlighting Local 700’s African American members, both past and present, and their accomplishments. We look forward to showing the contributions and influences African Americans have had on the industry.

Theresa “Tressie” Souders (1897-1995) was the first known African American woman to direct a feature film, “A Woman’s Error” (1922). Born and raised in Frankfort, Kansas, Tressie made her way to Kansas City, Missouri to participate in the burgeoning Black Filmmaking industry. Along with her contemporaries Maria P. Williams (“The Flames of Wrath,” 1923) and A. Porter Davis (“The Lure of A Woman,” 1921), Souders wanted to present a vision of the life of African Americans that was authentic. While there is no known copy of her film “A Woman’s Error,” a copy of the script survives.

Following “A Woman’s Error,” Tressie moved to the West Adams suburb of Los Angeles to pursue studio work. After a decade-plus of knocking on the doors of Hollywood, Ms. Souders relocated to San Francisco in 1940 and transitioned into a film lecturer. She took her experience in filmmaking to the southern states, sharing her knowledge with young audiences and inspiring future generations.