Celebrating Hattie McDaniel

February is the month of celebration for African American culture, and one of the most predominant displays of culture today is film and television. There have been many actors, actresses and directors to make contributions to the industry and way of life for African Americans and they are all still relevant to college students today.

Perhaps most important was singer and actor Hattie McDaniel who was the first African American to win an Oscar.

In 1940, McDaniel was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. She took charge of her career and made something out of nothing. She rose to fame for her role as Mammy, the head slave, in the first integrated movie, « Gone with the Wind. »

« Gone with the Wind, » a story about love during the Civil War, was produced by David O. Selznick. McDaniel added a sense of reality to the story. Set in the south, the story surrounded the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner. McDaniel played her role botte fourrée ugg so well that news outlets could not ignore it. Selznick took notice of the buzz she was getting and submitted her for a nomination in the best supporting actress category, contributing to the film’s 13 nominations. She was 44 years old at the time.

« I have personally never seen the movie, but of course I know who Hattie McDaniel is, » said Aaron Harris, senior computer science major. « Being African American, I’d be shocked if you hadn’t heard of her. She was a trailblazer in the movie industry. »

The 12th Academy Awards were held at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel. Ironically, this was a strict no blacks allowed hotel. McDaniel was allowed in, with the help of Selznick, but was forced to sit at a small table set against a far wall in the corner. She wasn’t allowed to sit with her coworkers at the « Gone with the Wind » table. Silence followed the announcement of her winning.

After winning the Oscar, McDaniel was bombarded with roles to play a maid or slave. She was loved at the time by « White Hollywood, » but according to the Hollywood Reporter, she was ridiculed and disowned by the NAACP and the black community for portraying negative stereotypes about African Americans.

« I think they felt betrayed because she was supposed to be their hero, a trailblazer, but she was doing so by playing touchy, time sensitive roles that the community was trying to move away from, » said Summer Collins, senior musical theater major. « On one hand, McDaniel was breaking boundaries, but on the other hand, she was doing so by playing roles the community [didn’t like]. »

According to the Hollywood Reporter, McDaniel would always respond, « I’d rather play a maid than be a maid. » Hollywood essentially put her in a box with 74 confirmed roles similar to the sassy Mammy role she played in « Gone with the Wind. »

« They just did to her what the black community does to Cam Newton now, » said Andria Brown, junior child development major and president of the NAACP chapter at East Carolina University. « No matter how much he gives back or how many touchdowns he gets, he’s still talked down on by our community because he doesn’t do or say every single thing the ‘right’ way or the way we want him to. »

Years later, McDaniel is now looked at as one of the greats a trailblazer. In 2010, actress Mo’nique Hicks was one of many to pay homage to the great Hattie McDaniel, bottes ugg while accepting her very own best supporting actress award. « That woman had to endure questions from the white community and the black community, » said Mo’nique Hicks.

While McDaniel’s career was controversial at the time, no one could doubt that she was a woman of many talents. She refused to use the « N Word » and knew what she would allow and not allow while playing such sensitive roles.

Hattie McDaniel was Mammy, but she is also so much more to the African American community and the entertainment industry one of the trailblazers.

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