Hattie McDaniel was a renowned actress, entertainer and radio performer. She was the youngest of thirteen children born to Henry and Susan Holbert on June 10, 1895 in Wichita, Kansas. Her father was a Baptist minister and minstrel performer, and her mother was a gospel singer. The family moved to Denver when Hattie was a child where she attended both elementary and high school. At school, she was one of the only two black children. Before finishing high school, however, she quit in order to train as an entertainer in her father’s minstrel troupe. She was very fond of singing and dancing, and performed at school, church and in the troupe. In 1920, she joined Professor George Morrison’s orchestra and toured with them for 5 years. During this time, she was invited to perform on radio, making her the first African American woman to sing on the radio in the U.S. She also recorded many of her songs with Okeh Records and Paramount Records.
After the stock market crash in 1929, everyone was desperate for work. In order to supplement her income, Hattie McDaniel often took on all types of work such as washroom attendant, waitress and other odd jobs. She found work as a singer at a club in Milwaukee, where she became a regular performer. A couple of years later, she moved to Los Angeles where two of her siblings Sam and Etta were working in films. Sam managed to get Hattie a part in a radio show called The Optimistic Do-Nut Hour. She also found work in films, her roles ranging from very minor ones to leading roles. Some of her films include The Golden West, I’m No Angel, The Little Colonel, Judge Priest, China Seas, Murder By Television, Vivacious Lady, Show Boat, Saratoga, The Shopworn Angel and Alice Adams.
Her most well known role is that of “Mammy” in the film “Gone With The Wind” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Her character was that of a sassy maid to the film’s heroine. The competition for the role was quite intense, and even Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to the film’s producer, asking for her own maid to be cast