Passing the Torch: Tressie Souders and Shonda Rhimes

Tressie Souders and Shonda Rhimes are two African American women who have achieved great success in the movie and television industry.

The first Black woman to direct a feature film, Tressie Souders made her directorial debut with the 1922 film “A Woman’s Error.” Souders did more than just direct the film. She also wrote the screenplay and produced the film, which was distributed by the Afro-American Film Exhibitors’ Company. Her film was acclaimed for being an accurate depiction of African American life. The International Black Women’s Film Festival (IBWFF) was founded in 2001, and in 2008 it established the Tressie Souders Awards, “Tressies.” IBWFF also recently published “Tressie Magazine” in an effort to provide “insightful articles about your favorite Black actresses, including a refreshingly contemporary look at style, music and the film industry –especially in regard to women of color.”

Shonda Rhimes is another Black woman in the film industry who has made history as one of the most successful writers and producers in America.

An American screenwriter and producer, has worked on one of the biggest shows in television, “Grey’s Anatomy.” Rhimes wrote the screenplays for movies such as “Crossroads,” which starred pop icon Britney Spears, and “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” which starred award-winning actress Anne Hathaway. The first African American woman to write and produce a top-10-rated show on network television, “Grey’s Anatomy” ran for 17 seasons and has won numerous awards. The show is the second-longest scripted primetime show ever on ABC and the second-longest scripted primetime medical drama. In 2005 Rhimes founded her own production company, Shondaland.

Souders paved the way for Black women to achieve the level of success that Rhimes has achieved. Souders was the first African American woman to direct a film and Rhimes is the first African American woman to create, write and produce a television show with such success. Both of these women have shattered the glass ceiling in their own right.