Born in 1895, Hattie McDaniel was an actress, singer-songwriter, and comedian. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first ever given to an African American. She was also the first Black woman to sing on US radio. She appeared in over 300 films and received screen credits for 80. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for radio and one for motion pictures. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and in 2006, became the first Black Oscar winner on a US postage stamp.
When she joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1934, she landed more frequent film roles – at first, in cameo performances like “Bojangles” and “The Little Colonel.” By 1935, she was playing prominent roles in “China Seas” and “Show Boat,” singing a verse in “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”
She was friends with many of Hollywood’s most famous stars. The role she is best known for was as “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind.”
She began being criticized by the Black community for the roles she accepted to stay in favor of the Hollywood elites. When she was chosen for “Gone with the Wind,” the NAACP fought to have certain racial epithets removed and some of the historical accuracies corrected. They believed that the film celebrated the slave system.
When she received her Academy Award, she gave one of the best acceptance speeches in the Academy’s history.