28 Days of Black History Month (February 16th)
Hattie McDaniel was an Actress, Singer/Song writer & Comedian among her many talents. She was born on June 10, 1985 in Witchita, Kansas. She was the youngest of 13, Her parents were born both slaves. Hattie is best known for her role in “Gone With The Wind” in 1939 where she played the character Mammy, a maid. Playing the a maid was just about the pinnacle for a Black Actress in any Hollywood movie of that era. However, Hattie did the unthinkable she won the award that year for Best Supporting Actress. She was the First African American Actress to win that Award. Not only was she the 1st African American (Man or Woman) to Win an Oscar but she beat everyone else by 15 years. Remember Dorothy Dandridge was the 1st African American to be Nominated for Best Lead Actress in 1954 for Carmen Jones. Sidney Poitier was the First African American male to be nominated and win an Oscar in 1958 for his role as Noah Cullen in the movie “Defiant Ones”.
Hattie McDaniel Became a sensation and a target by both the Black & White communities. White Community were very angry that the Academy letting her win an Award “Where she just plays a Maid”. The Black community was upset for her stereotypical and submissive role of a maid. Gone With The Wind was a very Racially insensitive movie, even by today’s standards. She didn’t let those criticisms stand in her way. She was an accomplished Singer in fact she was the also the 1st African American to sing on the radio. In her career she appeared in almost 300 movies while being credited with less than half. Hattie McDaniel is a part of a group of 30 or entertainers with multiple Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (She has 2 Radio & Film). Hattie McDaniel died on October 26th, 1952 at the age of 57 due to advanced Breast Cancer. One of her dying wishes were to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetary, but her casket was denied due to the segregationist policies of the Cemetery. Blacks were not allowed to be buried there. The cemetery was desegregated in 1959 (New ownership offered to re inter her body there, built a Cenotaph instead in her honor after their request was denied in 1999).
Say what you want about the Black Entertainers of the 1900’s but they suffered a lot of injustices so that we can have the freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy today. Hattie McDaniel, make no mistake about it was on the front lines. She contributed a lot to the African American Causes, she lent her voice and her hands to entertain the Black troops on USO tours. She was also a very big supporter and activist for Women’s Rights as well. RIP MS. McDaniel, #Thankyou.