A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff
Monday, February 22nd, 2021
Maria Priscilla Williams was born on January 1, 1866 in Missouri and very little is known about her upbringing. It is believed that she was a schoolteacher prior to her career in being a lecturer and writer on social activism and leadership. From 1891 to 1894, Maria was editor-in-chief of a weekly newspaper in Kansas City called, the New Era. From 1896 to 1900, she edited and published a newspaper, the Women’s Voice, which was described as having “many pleasant things to say on a choice of timely topics.” Maria involved herself in a number of civic activities and in 1916, she published a short pamphlet describing her life and discussing her political and social views entitled, “My Work and Public Sentiment.” She identified herself as an organizer and speaker with the Good Citizens League and stated that ten percent of the proceeds would go to suppressing crime among African Americans. In 1923, Maria P. Williams, wrote, produced and acted in a five reel crime drama, the Flames of Wrath; “written, acted and produced entirely by colored people.” With her husband, Jesse L. Williams as President they created the Western Film Producing Company, a Negro corporation of Kansas City. Since Maria and Jesse also operated a movie theater and their film company, they were able to distribute her film to black cinemas. Only one frame of the Flames of Wrath is known to exist and it is in the George P. Johnson Negro Film Collection in the Young Research Library at the University of California in L.A. Today we honor the woman who was the first black woman to write, produce and act in a movie. Back in the 1900s, the producer and director roles were not as differentiated as it is today so it is believed that Maria P. Williams could have also directed her film, the Flames of Wrath. Maria was “the first colored woman film producer in the United States.” Thank you. Happy Black History Month.