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Hattie McDaniel

February 25, 2010

We all know Hattie McDaniel was the first African American ever to win an Academy Award, but there's more to this versatile and savvy actress than that singular distinction. Here are a few other fun facts about her:

1. Before landing the role of Mammy in 1939's Gone with the Wind, McDaniel took on a host of other jobs: she was a singer with Professor George Morrison's Orchestra in 1915; she worked as a washerwoman, cook, and domestic; and she worked in vaudeville.

2. McDaniel beat out several other African American actresses for the role, including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt's maid, Elizabeth McDuffie, and established actresses Hattie Noel and Louise Beaver.

3. She fought hard for her role in Gone with the Wind after reading the novel from which it was adapted and connected with the Mammy role, which she strongly believed she could infuse with depth and humanity.

4. McDaniel beat out co-star Olivia DeHavilland in the Best Supporting Actress category at the 12th Annual Academy Awards.

5. She went on to appear in such films as Since You Went Away, In This Our Life, and Walt Disney's Song of the South before moving into television in 1951 and starring in the first TV sitcom to star an African American, Beulah.

6. In 2006, McDaniel was featured on a US postage stamp as part of the US Postal Service's Black Heritage series.

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