Today in History – Hattie McDaniel passes away



Thu, 26 Oct 2017 - 11:45 GMT


Thu, 26 Oct 2017 - 11:45 GMT

Hattie McDaniel via Biography Youtube Channel

Hattie McDaniel via Biography Youtube Channel

CAIRO – 26 October 2017: Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American woman to win an Oscar, died on this day in history in 1952 at the age of 57.

McDaniel was born in Wichita, Kansas, on June 10, 1895, the 13th child in her family. She was popular when she was younger for her talented singing voice, particularly at school. When she was at High School, McDaniel began to perform as part of the Mighty Minstrels, which inspired her to pursue a career in acting and drop out of school in 1909. She founded an all-women minstrel group in 1911, and during the early 1920s toured with George Morrison's orchestra.

Her career in acting began after she moved to Los Angeles, where she would debut in 1932’s “The Golden West” as a housekeeper. Due to racial prejudice at the time, roles for black actors were not easy to come by, and McDaniel was primarily cast as a housekeeper, maid or servant. Regardless, she accepted her roles and managed to infuse a sense of fierce independence in them, showing that she wasn’t any lesser than her white costars.

McDaniel’s first major role came in 1935’s “The Little Colonel,” where she starred alongside big names such as Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore. This role brought her to the attention of Hollywood executives. Eventually, McDaniel would land the biggest role of her entire career in one of the world’s most beloved classics; “Gone with the Wind.”

She portrayed Mammy, a character that while unfortunately now associated with racist stereotypes was portrayed so well by McDaniel that it earned her an Academy Award, the first for any African-American actress. Due to segregation laws, McDaniel was barred from entering both the film’s premiere in 1939 and could not celebrate the Oscars night with her white costars.

As civil rights progressed, the servant roles McDaniel excelled at were gradually beginning to decline. She’d even come under criticism by members of the black community for choosing servant roles and “advancing” stereotypes; though McDaniel rebuked them by stating her characters were more than just servants. Eventually, her well of acting dried up, but McDaniel moved over to radio and TV.

In 1947, she starred as the lead role in the sitcom “The Beulah Show;” based off a radio show she was in and one of the first comedy shows to feature a lead African-American actress. Unfortunately, McDaniel grew ill and was diagnosed with cancer, and eventually succumbed to the disease.

In her will, McDaniel had asked to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery, where “Gone with the Wind” director Victor Fleming was also laid to rest, but her request could not be filled thanks to segregation once again. She was buried in her second choice, the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. Her family had declined an offer in 1999 to have her remains moved to the Hollywood Cemetery, stating that they would prefer not to disturb her.

After her death, McDaniel was honored with two stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers’ Hall of Fame.



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