Kathleen Collins

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Kathleen Collins (March 18, 1942 – September 18, 1988) (also known as Kathleen Conwell, Kathleen Conwell Collins or Kathleen Collins Prettyman) was an African-American playwright, writer, filmmaker, director, and educator from Jersey City, New Jersey.[1][2] She is considered to have "changed the face and content of the black womanist film" and to be the first black American woman to produce a feature-length film.[3] Influenced by Lorraine Hansberry, she wrote about African-American subjects as human beings rather than solely as subjects of race.[4]


Collins graduated from Skidmore College in 1963 and Paris-Sorbonne University in Paris in 1966 with an MA in French literature and cinema.[1][5]


Kathleen Collins joined the faculty of City College at the City University of New York and became a professor of film history and screenwriting, where cinematographer Ronald Gray encouraged her to go ahead with a screenplay she had adapted from a Henry Roth short story. That film became The Cruz Brothers and Mrs. Malloy, which eventually won First Prize at the Sinking Creek Film Festival. This was followed in 1982 by Losing Ground (starring Seret Scott, Bill Gunn, and Duane Jones), which she wrote and directed. Losing Ground was the first feature-length drama directed by a black American woman[6] and won First Prize at the Figueroa International Film Festival in Portugal, garnering much international acclaim. Both films were shot in Rockland County, New York, and are currently being distributed by Milestone Films.

Collins wrote many other plays and screenplays, but her two most well-known theatrical plays are In the Midnight Hour (1981) and The Brothers (1982), both of which are available through Samuel French. Themes frequently explored in her work are issues of marital malaise, male dominance and impotence, freedom of expression and intellectual pursuit, and her protagonists are cited as "typically self-reflective women who move from a state of subjugation to empowerment."[4]


  1. ^ a b Andrews, William L.; Foster, Frances Smith; Harris, Trudier (15 February 2001). The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Oxford University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-19-513883-2. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath (2004). African American Dramatists: An A-To-Z Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-313-32233-4. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Page, Yolanda Williams (30 January 2007). Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-313-33429-0. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath (2005). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature: A - C. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 482. ISBN 978-0-313-33060-5. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Carson, Clayborne (1960). The Student Voice, 1960-1965: Periodical of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-88736-323-8. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  6. ^ George, Nelson (2004). Post-Soul Nation: The Explosive, Contradictory, Triumphant, and Tragic 1980s as Experienced by African Americans {Previously Known as Blacks and Before That Negroes}. Viking. p. 37. ISBN 0670032751. 

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