On February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel made history as she became the first African American to win an Academy Award with the film, “Gone With the Wind.” McDaniel took home Best Supporting Actress for her role as the Mammy.

McDaniel took the stage at the 12th Academy Awards and was the only Black woman in the room. Although her other co-stars were present, they were seated separately from McDaniel. When she was announced as the winner, she shaped a historical moment while representing all African Americans proudly, stating:

“It has made me feel very, very humble, and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry.”

Who was Hattie McDaniel?

McDaniel was the daughter of Henry McDaniel, a veteran of the Union Army, and Susan Holbert, a talented gospel singer. She had a struggling life, as her father was born into slavery. However, McDaniel used her hardships as motivation to push through and challenge racism in her life.

McDaniel had her own show, “Beulah”

Not only did McDaniel become the first African American to win an Oscar, but was the first black actor to have her own radio network program with a comedy series, “Beulah.” From 1945 to 1954, the comedic show aired on CBS Radio. McDaniel replaced Ethel Waters, earning $1000 weekly for the first season. She helped double the ratings of the original series.

Inspiring other Black Actresses

Throughout the years, McDaniel paved the way for other black performers. During the 82nd Academy Awards, Mo’Nique received the award of Supporting Actress. After receiving her award, she thanked McDaniel for all her contributions.

“I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to so that I would not have to.”

Mo’Nique, thanking McDaniel 70 years later, showcases how her contributions are still remembered. Hattie McDaniel’s win greatly impacted society, inspiring the next generation and conveying a sense of racial progression.

Hello, my name is Sydney Anderson and I am from the Bronx, New York. I am a senior at Delaware State University, majoring in mass communications with a concentration in convergence journalism. At DSU,...

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