Hattie McDaniel


Hattie McDaniel (June 10, 1895 – October 26, 1952) was an American actress and the first black performer to win an Academy Award. She won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939).

McDaniel was also a professional singer-songwriter, comedienne, stage actress, radio performer, and television star. Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio in America. Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in over 300 films, although she only received screen credits for about 80. She gained the respect of the African American show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.

McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to radio at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.


Legal case: Victory on “Sugar Hill”
Time magazine, December 17, 1945:

Their story was as old as it was ugly. In 1938, Negroes, willing and able to pay $15,000 and up for West Adams, Los Angeles, California, Heights property, had begun moving into the old colonial mansions. Many were movie folk—Actresses Louise Beavers, Hattie McDaniel, Ethel Waters, etc. They improved their holdings, kept their well-defined ways, quickly won more than tolerance from most of their white neighbors. But some whites, refusing to be comforted, had drawn up a racial restrictive covenant among themselves. For seven years they had tried to sell it to the other whites, but failed. Then they went to court. Superior Judge Thurmond Clarke decided to visit the disputed ground—popularly known as “Sugar Hill.” Next morning, Judge Clarke threw the case out of court. His reason: “It is time that members of the Negro race are accorded, without reservations or evasions, the full rights guaranteed them under the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Judges have been avoiding the real issue too long.” Said Hattie McDaniel, of West Adams Heights: “Words cannot express my appreciation.” It was McDaniel, the most famous of the black homeowners, who helped to organize the black West Adams residents that saved their homes. Loren Miller, a local attorney and owner/publisher of the California Eagle newspaper represented the homeowners in their restrictive covenant case. In 1944, he won the case Fairchild v Rainers, a decision for a black Pasadena, California family that had bought a non restricted lot but was sued by white neighbors anyway.

McDaniel had purchased her white two-story, seventeen-room mansion in 1942. The house included a large living room, dining room, drawing room, den, butler’s pantry, kitchen, service porch, library, four bedrooms, and a basement. McDaniel had a yearly Hollywood party. Everyone knew that the king of Hollywood, Clark Gable, would be faithfully present at all of McDaniel’s Movieland parties.

Community service
McDaniel was also a member of Sigma Gamma Rho, one of four African-American Greek letter sororities in the United States. During World War II, McDaniel was the Chairman of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers stationed at military bases. She also put in numerous personal appearances to hospitals, threw parties, performed at United Service Organizations (USO) shows and war bond rallies, to raise funds to support the war, on behalf of the Victory Committee. Bette Davis also performed for black regiments as the only white member of an acting troupe formed by Hattie McDaniel, that also included Lena Horne and Ethel Waters.

She joined Clarence Muse for an NBC radio broadcast to raise funds for Red Cross relief programs for Americans, many of them black, who had been displaced by the year’s devastating floods. Within the black community, she gained a reputation for generous giving, often without question feeding and lending money to friends and stranger alike.


Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar Win Speech



Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood by Jill Watts

The Beulah Show, Volume 1 (2007)-DVD

Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel by Carlton Jackson

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