October 26th in African American History – Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDanielOctober 26, 1952 Hattie McDaniel, the first Black performer to win an Academy Award, died.

McDaniel was born June 10, 1895 in Wichita, Kansas. She was a professional singer/songwriter, comedienne, stage and movie actress, and radio performer. Over the course of her career she appeared in more than 300 films, often portraying a maid. In response to criticism from the NAACP, she said “I’d rather play a maid and make $700 a week than be one for $7.”

In 1940, McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in “Gone with the Wind.” During World War II, she served as Chairperson of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers at military bases. Before she died, McDaniel expressed that she wanted to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery with other movie stars but the owners of the cemetery would not allow it because of her race.

McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her contributions to radio and one for motion pictures. In 2006, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. Her biography, “Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel,” was published in 1990.

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