Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Kathleen Collins died at the age of forty-six of cancer. Not only was she a filmmaker, translator, fiction writer, playwright, and educator, but she was also a role model for many young black students while she was an associate professor of film at City College of New York.
She received a BA in philosophy and religion from Skidmore College and an MA in French literature and cinema from the Middlebury Graduate School in France, and she did doctoral course work at Union Theological Seminary. From 1965 to 1967, she worked as a translator for Cahiers du Cinema in Paris. After returning to the United States, Collins worked on various films and at National Educational Television. In 1973 she was hired by City College where she taught for fifteen years. Her first film, The Cruz Brothers and Mrs. Malloy, a comedy featuring two Latino men and a white woman, was criticized for not addressing the black experience. Losing Ground, the best known of her films, tells the story of a middle-class, black woman's struggle to find herself within her marriage. It was screened at the Museum of Modern Art and appeared on American Playhouse. In her films, as well as in her plays, she refused to depict blacks in the traditional role of heroic or resigned victim. She believed herself to be more of a writer than a filmmaker, and at the time of her death she was finishing a novel and beginning preproduction work for a feature film. Collins had a daughter and two sons in her first marriage and two stepchildren from her second husband, Alfred Prettyman.
Collins major plays, In the Midnight Hour and The Brothers, are both about upper middle-class black families, characters infrequently featured on the stage