African-American Studies

The Struggle And Triumph Of Hattie McDaniel, The First African-American Oscar Winner

Hattie McDaniel, born June 10, 1865 in Wichita, Kansas, was a game-changing actress in the 20th century. In 1940, she made history by becoming the first African-American to win an Academy Award. McDaniel earned the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the iconic film "Gone With The Wind," a feat that was especially difficult for a number of reasons. Segregation in the United States was still the norm, and the ceremony was held at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel, which had a strict "no-blacks" policy. McDaniel was seated at a small table in the back, far from the prominent table where her white co-stars sat. She also received criticism for accepting the role of a house servant and former slave. According to the Hollywood Reporter, McDaniel's usual response was: "I'd rather play a maid than be a maid."

Written by Curiosity Staff June 8, 2016

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