Singer, comedian, radio performer, and television star Hattie McDaniel of Wichita, Kansas is an African American show biz pioneer that has greatly impacted the industry’s view of Black women. If it weren’t for Ms. McDaniel, there wouldn’t be an Oprah or a Mo’Nique, who is set to play Hattie in an upcoming biopic, as an excellent example for women in the industry. She faced overwhelming criticism not only from whites because of her race, but also from other Black people who felt as if McDaniel perpetuated racial stereotypes in her roles. She has been quoted as saying, “Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week being one.”
On this date in 1940, Ms. McDaniel was the very first Black person to win an Oscar(Best Supporting Actress) for her role as “Mammy” in “Gone With The Wind”. She was also the only Black woman to have received the coveted award until Whoopi Goldberg received the same award for her supporting role in “Ghost” almost 50 years later. McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for her radio contributions and the other for her motion picture accomplishments. In 2006, Hattie became the first Academy Award winner to be honored with a U.S. Postage stamp.