Hattie McDaniel was an American actress of stage and screen, professional singer-songwriter, and comedian. She is best known for her role as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first Oscar won by a black entertainer.
Who Was Hattie McDaniel?
By the mid-1920s, Hattie McDaniel became one of the first African American women to perform on radio. In 1934, she landed her on-screen break in the film Judge Priest. She then became the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940, for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. In 1947, after her career took a downturn, she began starring on CBS radio’s The Beulah Show.
McDaniel was born on June 10, 1893, in Wichita, Kansas, with some sources listing her year of birth as 1895. She was her parents’ 13th child. Her father, Henry, was a Civil War veteran who suffered greatly from war injuries and had a difficult time with manual labor. (Henry was later described by one of his sons as a minister, though this was a fictionalized account.) Her mother, Susan Holbert, was a domestic worker.
In 1901, McDaniel and her family moved to Denver, Colorado. There she attended the 24th Street Elementary School, where she was one of only two black students in her class. Her natural flair for singing—in church, at school, and in her home—was apparent early on and gained her popularity among her classmates.