Black History--Women of Courage: Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel

At the 15 years of age, Hattie McDaniel won a medal in dramatic art, but later started her career as a band vocalist touring the country. She became the first African American to sing on network radio in the United States. But that was only the beginning.

In 1931, McDaniel went to Hollywood to seek a film career. She started as an extra. When she couldn't get an acting job, McDaniel worked as a domestic, a cook, or a washerwoman.

In 1932, "Hi-hat Hattie" as friends called her made her movie debut. She won the Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind. She was the first black woman to earn the honor. Only two others have won the honor in the Academy's 74-year history.

McDaniel's fame also brought unexpected criticism. She came under fire for continually accepting movie roles as a stereotypical domestic. But she pointed to the domestic work she had done during the lean years, comparing the difference in salaries between working as a domestic and playing one. She said she preferred the film work.

That's why we honor Hattie McDaniel as a woman of courage.

Reported by: Dawn Baker,