by Jae Jones
Hattie “Butterfly” McQueen was born January 7, 1911, and was an African-American actress. She made her first appearance as Prissy, Scarlet O’Hara’s maid, in the film Gone with the Wind. The first time the movie premiered McQueen could not attend because Blacks were not allowed in the theater. McQueen changed the world with her acting, uttering her famous words: “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!” While people enjoyed her performance during that time, McQueen did not enjoy playing the part. She felt it was very demeaning to African-Americans.
Prissy also had a role on the Beulah radio show, which often sparked controversy through communities. Prissy said on the show “I didn’t mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over, I resented it. I didn’t mind being funny, but I didn’t like being stupid.”
Prissy continued in the movies until the 1940s. Then she made the decision to move on to television acting. McQueen never envisioned a life of acting, in fact, she planned to become a nurse up until high school. It was then that her teacher suggested she give acting a try. While dancing with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group, McQueen got the nickname “Butterfly.” The name was a tribute to her constantly moving her hands for the performance of the Butterfly Ballet. Since McQueen never liked her name any way she changed her name legally to Butterfly McQueen. Internet Archive.
McQueen played another role from 1950 thru 1952 as Oriole. It was another racially stereotyped role, on the TV series Beulah. She even appeared on a show of the Dating Game in 1969. McQueen had two homes, during the summer she lived in New York City, and the winter months in her home in Augusta, Georgia. In her later years McQueen was accused of being a pickpocket by security guards. She was later found not guilty and was awarded $60,000 in the judgment.
One thing McQueen did not take for granted was education. At the age of 64, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from New York City College in 1975. McQueen was never one to believe in religion. She had declared that she was a full atheist. She definitely didn’t believe in Christianity. She often told people just like her Black people were free from slavery, she was free from Christianity. America was heaven to her when it clean it was beautiful. McQueen died in the year of 1995 from the burns she sustained while trying to ignite a kerosene heater. The heater is said to have malfunctioned.