Hattie McDaniel was born in Wichita, Kansas on June 10, 1895, the youngest of 13 children. Her family eventually moved to Colorado. At the age of 13 she began performing in black minstrel shows and took the lead in high school plays and musical performances. In a contest sponsored by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, she won a gold medal for her moving rendition of "Convict Joe," an Alexander Murdoch poem about a man ruined by drink. Based on this success, she quit high school to tour full-time with minstrel groups along the West Coast, mainly with her father's Henry McDaniel Minstrel Show. When her father retired from performing in 1916, Hattie supported herself clerking in a Denver bakery.

In 1920 Hattie began touring with the Melody Hounds, a musical ensemble led by one of Denver's top black musicians, George Morrison. Traveling from Portland to El Paso, she received popular recognition as a singer and vaudeville performer, and in 1924 made her radio debut with Morrison in Denver. She was also a talented songwriter and recorded many of her own songs on the Okeh and Paramount labels in Chicago.

Arriving in Los Angeles in 1931, Hattie performed weekly on Los Angeles radio, where she became popularly known as Hi-Hat Hattie, a bossy, effervescent maid "who continually forgets her place." In 1932 she won her first, uncredited film role as a Southern house servant in Fox's The Golden West. She eventually starred in "Judge Priest," "The Little Colonel," "Anniversary Trouble" and "The First Baby" but it was her role as Mammy in "Gone With The Wind" that won her the distinction of becoming the first black person to ever win an Academy Award. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. But it was her continuing acceptance of roles as maids that brought her much criticism from the black community. During the 1940s she spent much time defending herself before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which claimed she was perpetuating a stereotype. The NAACP particularly criticized her role in "Gone With the Wind," in which Mammy spoke nostalgically about the Old South. After "Gone With the Wind" she appeared in "In This Our Life," "Johnny Come Lately," "Since You Went Away" and "Song Of The South."

As her film career waned, Hattie turned her attention back to radio, and in 1947 she became the first black actress to play a black character on the nationally syndicated radio program "The Beulah Show." She eventually appeared in six episodes of the television version of the same show replacing Ethel Waters.

Hattie was married three times: to Howard Hickman in 1938, James Lloyd Crawford from 1941 to 1945 and Larry Williams from 1949 to 1950. She died on October 26, 1952 of breast cancer.

Hattie's film credits include the following:

Check out the following sites for additional information about Hattie:

Hattie McDaniel@Internet Movie Database
Beyone Tara: The The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel@AfricanPubs.com
Hattie McDaniel@Wikipedia
Hattie McDaniel: Class Act
Hattie McDaniel@TvNow.com
Hattie McDaniel@Filmbug.com
Hattie McDaniel@African American Registry

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