Hattie McDaniel: The First African-American Actor to Win Academy Award

1 Posted by - January 28, 2023 - BLACK FASHION, BLACK MUSIC, BLACK WOMEN

Hattie McDaniel was an American actress, singer, songwriter, comedian and a radio performer. She became the first African-American to win an Academy Award proudly and made her community proud. It was the time of extreme racial discrimination that made the lives of the Black community tough.

Born on 10th of June 1893, in Wichita, Kansas, Hattie McDaniel was the 13th child of her parents. Her father was a Civil War survivor who suffered great injuries while her mother was in domestic services. In 1901, she and her family shifted to Denver, Colorado, where she started her education at the 24th Elementary School. She was one of the two black students that used to attend the class. From her childhood, she had the flair to sing in churches, a school and in her own home which gave her instant popularity in her community and among her classmates.

McDaniel started her professional singing, dancing and comedy career while she was studying at the East River High School. After some time, she dropped school to focus on her growing career and also performed with her elder brother’s troupe. In 1911, she married Howard Hickman, who was a pianist and started an all women’s minstrel show. She also got the opportunity to perform on radio, and after this, she continued her passion and became a blues artist. Unfortunately, her singing career did not stand for long and required some financial help. The good thing is, she was lucky enough to get instant help from her surroundings and produce a steady singing gig for her future.

Hattie McDaniel was not only a passionate singer but a born actor. After convinced by her brother, Sam, and Sister, Etta, they moved to Los Angeles where they tried hard to get minor movie roles for themselves. In 1931, McDaniel got a chance to play a role as an extra in a musical Hollywood movie. She continued to work as an extra but faced discrimination for being a Black and went through some tough time that forced her to do some odd jobs. Luckily, she never lost hope and earned her first Oscars for best supporting actress in 1940 for the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

With so many ups and downs in her career, McDaniel was later diagnosed with terrible breast cancer. On October 26, 1952, in Los Angeles, California, she lost her battle with cancer to meet her Lord once again. After her death, she has been awarded two stars on the Walk of Fame of Hollywood and is still remembered by millions around the globe.

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