BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Much isn’t known of Maria P. Williams, a person credited as the first Black woman film producer.
She was born in Versaille, Missouri in 1866 and throughout her lifetime she wore many hats — teacher, activist, director, filmmaker, author, producer — to name her most notable. She clearly had an affinity for writing, working as editor-in-chief at a weekly newspaper in Kansas City, publishing her own newspaper called the Women’s Voice and writing a memoir.
Williams also had a business side, co-managing a movie theatre with her husband.
Out of all of her accomplishments, she is best known for producing a five-reel silent crime drama titled The Flames of Wrath. The plot sounds similar to the plot of a popular HBO series that would air today, involving diamonds, theft, murder and a criminal investigation. Unfortunately, it is said that much of the film is lost.
Her life ended in murder in 1932 when an unknown person came to her asking for help for his sick brother. She was later found shot to death on the side of the road, miles from her home. Her death remains unsolved to this day.