Jessie Maple (born 1947) is a cinematographer, film director, and civil rights pioneer for women and African-American’s in film. Maple was the first Black woman to be admitted to the International Photographers of Motion Picture and Television Union in 1973. She then authored a book, ‘How to Become a Union Camerawoman’, that details her legal battle to fight racial and gender discrimination.
Moviemaking was a way for Maple to bring a positive representation of African-Americans to the world. Maple released an independent film ‘Will’ in 1981. For this, she is credited with being the first African-American woman to direct an independent feature-length film. While Maple ran into many obstacles making her films, she also struggled with finding a venue to premiere them. So, in 1982, she founded 20 West Theater, Home of Black Cinema in Harlem for showcasing films created by independent and black filmmakers.
This trailblazer pushed the boundaries of the film industry and settled new territory for women and African-American’s in cinematography. She fought injustice to create a career for herself, then helped lift others up by providing a platform to showcase their work. Her name deserves to known, her story deserves to be shared, she made history.
Sources and Links for Learning:
- IMDB – Jessie Maple
- NYIFT – Below the Line: A Cut Above – Jessie Maple
- Jessie Maple – Black Women Directors