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The Extraordinary Acting Career of Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel was born in 1893 in Wichita Kansas, she was the 13th children born to Susan Holbert, a homemaker & Henry McDaniel, a Civil War Veteran who suffered long term injuries from his service.

In 1901 the family moved to Denver Colorado & she was one two Black students in her class. Her natural talent for singing gained her much popularity amongst her classmates, church, & community. By the 1920s she was performing in vaudeville shows and an orchestra. Arpund 1925 she was invited to sing on KOA, Denver's radio station. This gave her the title of the first Black Woman to sing on American Radio.

Hattie began writing her own work & continued to perform on the circuit. Her big break came in 1929 while working as a bathroom attendent at Sam's Pick Suburban Inn in Milwaukee. The owner gave her a gig as a vocalist performing on the stage at that establishment.

In 1930, she & her sister moved to LA & were able to procure minor movie roles. She continued to gain steady minor roles in movies. To some in the Black Community she was a pioneer, others did not feel the same way as she would take the stereotypical roles of a cook or maid.

Throughout her early acting career she became good friends with Clark Gable & other big Hollywood names.

In 1939 Hattie auditioned for the role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind. She went to the audition in her work uniform as she was still working part time as a maid to supplement her income as Black actors and female actors were paid far less then their male White counterparts.

Hattie McDaniel got the part and she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her role as Mammy. Hattie was the first Black Woman to win an Oscar. Unfortunately because of the unfair & wrongful segregation laws she was not allowed to attend the premiere of Gone With The Wind in Atlanta. Clark Gable vehemently protested that she should absolutely be allowed to go. He said that he would not attend but Hattie urged him to go. Clark was able to get her into the theater but she had to stay in a side room. (My personal opinion on this, that is such garbage and I am so very thankful that these laws no longer exist. How disheartening & disgusting that we used to treat other people this way.)

Hattie McDaniel was welcomed at the Los Angeles Premiere of Gone With The Wind & she has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One for her acting career & one for her radio career.

After Gone With the Wind Hattie went on to star in The Beulah Show during World War II to entertain the Troops. Because of it being War Time Era, the show's performance was somber to reflect the struggles our American Troops were facing over seas.

In 1951 CBS brought "The Buelah Show" to television and Hattie was to continue her role. Unfortunately that same year she suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with breast cancer which forced her to abandon her acting career.

Hattie McDaniel died on October 26th, 1952 after loosing her battle with breast cancer. Her dream was to be buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery but as segregation laws were still being practiced, she was denied burial there. Her second choice was Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in California and that request was granted. When Hollywoid Forever came under new ownership the new owners offered to have her moved there free of charge but her family politely declined. Instead the owner erected a shrine to Hattie that overlooks the lake there.

In 1975 Hattie was inducted into the Black Filmmaker's Hall of Fame & in 2006 she was given a commemorative postage stamp.

A very well written biography of Hattie was written in 2005 called "Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood" by Jill Watts.

Hattie McDaniel was a ground breaking legendary actress who had starred in over 300 films but was only credited for 84 of them. She walked her own path in life. I admire her deeply because she was fearless, ambitious, talented, & paved the way for many others and did not care what others thought of her. She is a true Legend and someone we can all look up to.

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