Even though she was always put into stereotyped roles, Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar. Thus, in addition to the actress standing out in one of the biggest Hollywood films, Hattie McDanielget was likewise the first African American woman to star in a radio program.
Born in 1893 in the United States, Hattie McDaniel was the youngest daughter of 13 children of a freed enslaved couple who fled to Kansas because of the extreme poverty they were forced to live in. However, even in the midst of difficulties, she managed to show her talent to the world.
The Challenges in the Hollywood industry
Trained in a religious family, since she was a child, Hattie was encouraged to sing in the church choir and always loved to read. Therefore, Hattie decided early on that she did not want to follow the path of servitude to which women of that time were destined. Thus, together with two of her brothers, she created a vaudeville group. At the time, this type of group was more common and meant that they would do a short bit of everything with respect to entertainment.
In 1929, with the crash of the New York Stock Exchange, the group went bankrupt. With that, she decided to try the Milwaukee luck. There, Hattie got a job at a hotel. But as she was part of the employees, she was never noticed and had no chance of growing. So, one night, when all the artists were gone, the manager asked a volunteer to go up on stage to perform in the hotel’s lounge. At that moment, Hattie saw that she could not miss that opportunity and went up on stage to sing. After the presentation, the manager was so impressed that Hattie went on to star in the show and gain other roles in entertainment.
After that, in the 1940s, the “Hays Code” was a system that self-regulated Hollywood studios. That being the case, Hollywood studios were forbidden to have romances between black and white people in films and also, blacks could not have access to violent roles. That said, black people end up assuming only irrelevant roles in history, such as drivers, waiters and employees. So, once in the industry, Hattie did not escape the stereotype. But, in her own way, she managed to do the unimaginable in “And the Wind Gone”.
How did Hattie McDanielget an Oscar Award?
In the movie, even playing a maid, the actress became one of the biggest highlights in history. However, due to the segregation regime, she was unable to attend the film’s premiere. However, on February 29, 1940, during the 12th Oscar ceremony, Hattie won in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actress’. With that, she became the first black woman to win the golden statuette.
Because of the separation, she couldn’t go to the ceremony. However, the film’s producer got a special permit so she could enter the theatre. So, she had to stay at a small table in the back, away from the cast and other stars. In addition, Hattie was also unable to pose for photos with the rest of the cast.
Years After, Hattie would also make history by becoming the first African American woman to star in a radio show. Thus, in a much better social condition, she decided to allocate part of her salary to help black people in situations of social vulnerability. However, shortly after signing the program contract, she discovered a tumour on her chest. Thus, she died on October 26, 1952, at the age of 57. However, his legacy remains alive to this day.