Jessie Maple, cinematographer, director and pioneer in the film industry, has died at the age of 76.
Her death was confirmed by her family in a statement shared by the Black Film Center & Archive.
Jessie Maple was recognized as the first Black woman to write and produce a full-length film independently.
She was also the first Black woman to be admitted into the International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television Union.
Maple had an extraordinary life. In the ’70s, she worked in a bacteriology and serology laboratory before taking on the entertainment industry. She eventually left science behind and headed to New York to write for the New York Courier. After attending Ossie Davis’ Third World Cinema through the National Education Television Training School, Maple was hired as an apprentice editor and worked on projects such as Shaft’s Big Score! and The Super Cops.
Maple was determined to become a camerawoman. After a long legal fight, she joined the Film Editor’s Union and the Cinematographer’s Union and worked as a news camerawoman for several years.
In 1981, Maple directed the basketball drama Will, which was the first independent film directed by a Black woman n the post-civil rights era. Maple and her husband Leroy Patton would go on to found LJ Productions, which screened films in Harlem, NY by independent and Black filmmakers.
The Black Film Center & Archive shared the family statement via Twitter with a caption reading, “We extend our deepest condolences to the entire family. We’re committed and dedicated to honoring her legacy.”
In the family statement, Maple is praised for her pursuit of social change within the entertainment spaces.
“Her films, books, and unapologetic post to highlight discrimination and injustices within the news and entertainment industries will remain with us,” the family said in the statement. “The world through Jessie’s lens offers views of humanity that are often overlooked due to race and post dynamics.”
Jessie Maple is survived by her husband Leroy Patten, their three daughters, her grandson, five sisters, and a host of nieces and nephews.
Let’s keep the Maple family in our prayers as they mourn the loss of a loved one, a true pioneer and trailblazer. She was a true inspiration to women all over the world. Rest well legend.
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