Hattie McDaniel on CBS radio
Actress Hattie McDaniel was born on June 10, 1895 in Wichita, Kansas to a family of entertainers. She was the 13th child of a banjo-playing Baptist minister and gospel singing mother. While attending high school in Denver, Colorado, her singing abilities brought her work in minstrel shows and eventually found her performing with a vaudeville troupe for five years.

Hattie McDaniel, Singer and Actress   1895-1952
Hattie McDaniel and James Cagney in 1943 film
In 1925, Hattie was invited to perform on Denver's radio station which gave her the distinction of being the first African American woman to sing on the radio in the U.S. Ms. McDaniel continued the vaudeville circuit and landed in Milwaukee when the slow down of the Great Depression occurred. She was working as a ladies' room attendant at Sam Pick's when she audition with the song, "St. Louis Blues." In 1929, McDaniel found a steady job as a vocalist at the club and never went back to the maid job. Two years later, Hattie moved to Los Angeles after hearing about work available there on the radio. While she was able to pick up some radio work, at times she had to supplement her income by working at odd jobs.

Hattie McDaniel accepting her Oscar Award
In 1931, she landed her first film role as an extra in a Hollywood musical. Hattie's first major on-screen break came in 1934 singing a duet with Will Rogers in Judge Priest. The following year Ms. McDaniel landed a role opposite Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel. This part brought her to the attention of major Hollywood directors and a stead stream of offers followed. The highlight of her entertainment career came in 1939 with Hattie playing the role of Mammy, the house servant in Gone with the Wind. This role won her the first Oscar ever given to an African American in 1940. Hattie McDaniel unfortunately lost a battle to breast cancer after starting a new career in television as a maid on The Beulah Show. She died on October 26, 1952.

"I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry." 
- Hattie McDaniel, During Her Oscar Acceptance Speech
 


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