HATTIE MCDANIEL

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By Tim Sullivan

Today's fierce female is Hattie McDaniel.

Born to former slaves in 1895, Hattie got her start in show business performing in minstrel shows on the vaudeville circuit.

She moved to Hollywood in 1931 and began getting bit parts in films - almost always as a maid. In 1939, she won the coveted role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind. She and her black co-stars were not allowed to attend the premiere in Atlanta because of Georgia's segregation laws.

She became the first African-American to be nominated for and to win an Oscar for the role. The hotel the Academy Awards were held in that year had a strict policy prohibiting blacks, but Hattie was allowed in given she was a nominee. She was sat at a segregated table away from the other guests.

She led the Negro division of the Hollywood Victory Committee during World War II, as the military was segregated at the time. Black performers were not allowed to perform for white troops, so Hattie's delegation (whose only white member was her friend, Bette Davis) was one of the only groups willing to entertain our black troops.

Hattie went on to have a career in film, television, and radio, almost always portraying maids. The roles she performed in were controversial, with the NAACP chief among her critics. Her response was, "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."

"Putting a little time aside for clean fun and good humor is very necessary to relieve the tensions of our time."

"I'm letting no man handle my bank account."

"I am loathe to marry again. I've been married enough - I just prefer to forget it."

"You can best fight any existing evil from the inside."

"A woman's gifts will make room for her."


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