Hattie McDaniel's Challenging Journey Before and After Making Oscar History
Hattie McDaniel broke through barriers as the first African American actor to win an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone with the Wind, but it was a long road to her landmark victory. Life also didn’t get any easier after winning an Oscar. In fact, she received backlash following the historic achievement. Some people viewed her success as a sign the film industry was finally changing for the better, but others saw the exact opposite, making her a complex Hollywood figure. Read on to learn the truth about Hattie McDaniel’s challenging journey before and after making Oscar history.
She Was Banned from the Film’s Premiere and the Oscars (Initially)
In 1939’s Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel portrayed Mammy, a sassy Black house slave. However, the actor and her Black co-stars weren’t even allowed to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta because the venue only admitted white guests.
McDaniel’s Win Didn't Open the Door to Better Opportunities for Her
Before McDaniel’s landmark victory, she had a difficult time finding roles in Hollywood because parts for Black actors were limited. Despite her talented background as a singer-songwriter and radio performer, servants or maids were the only available roles.
Black Communities Were Divided with Some Disapproving of Her
Many people believed McDaniel’s achievements represented the beginning of a progressive movement in Hollywood. Others from Black communities frowned upon McDaniel, as she often portrayed racial stereotypes, including her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.
Should Gone with the Wind Be Erased?
The controversial film still sparks criticism today, with Queen Latifah denouncing the movie and HBO removing and re-adding it to its streaming service. However, historians argue that the film should not be erased. It’s a significant film that has been used to teach others about race, racism and slavery.