Trailblazing Black Cinematographer Jessie Maple Patton Dies at 86

Jessie Maple Patton was the first Black woman to write and produce a full-length film independently.

Jessie Maple Patton is recognized as the first Black woman member of the filmmaker’s union.

Be blessed.
Hug the hugless, love the loveless.
Feed the hungry, help the helpless.
Encourage the sad and always give an encouraging word.”

— Jessie Maple Patton

ATLANTA, GA, USA, June 1, 2023/ — It is with happy memories and deep sorrow that the family of Jessie Maple Patton announces her transition. She passed away peacefully, at the age of 86, surrounded by family on May 30, 2023 at her home in Atlanta, GA.

Jessie is recognized as the first Black woman to write and produce a full-length film independently. She also holds the distinct honor of being the first Black woman to join the filmmakers’ union. Her films, books, and unapologetic push to highlight discrimination and injustices within the news and entertainment industries will remain for generations to come. The world through Jessie’s lens offers views of humanity that are often overlooked due to race and power dynamics.

Jessie’s Visual History has been captured and made available by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her 1981 film Will, featuring Loretta Devine, is currently being digitized by The Smith Center for the Digitization and Curation of African American History (NMAAHC/Smithsonian). A portion of her archives are housed at the Black Film Center & Archive (Indiana University Bloomington).

Jessie loved her family and left an extensive group of family and loved ones to cherish her legacy including husband Leroy Patton, only daughter Audrey Snipes, and grandson Nigel Snipes. She also leaves her Sisters: Lorrain (Al) Crosby, Peggy (Fred) Lincoln, Debbie (Dave) Reed, Camilla (Richard) Clarke Doremus, and Stephanie (Michael) Robinson. Jessie’s extended family includes adopted daughters Alma (Roosevelt) Speight, E. Danielle (Brandon) Butler, and a host of loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

E. Danielle Butler
EvyDani Books, LLC
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