Today, for Black History Month, we celebrate Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952). McDaniel made history when she won an Oscar for her role in Gone With the Wind, making her the first African-American to win the award. Filmmakers would only cast her in domestic-servant roles and black audiences criticized her for perpetuating negative stereotypes. She famously told her critics, “I’d rather play a maid than be a maid.”
There is so much more to her story, she was a complex person living during treacherous and difficult times. She pushed back against stereotypes and altered the film industry from in front of the camera and behind the scenes. We owe much respect and gratitude to Hattie McDaniel for breaking barriers and helping to bring the beauty and strength of black women to the forefront of American culture.