BLACK VOICES
01/11/2018 06:16 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2018

Get Ready For A Biopic About Hattie McDaniel, The First Black Oscar Winner

She won an Academy Award for her role in 1939's "Gone With The Wind."

Hattie McDaniel, the first black person to win an Oscar, is reportedly the subject of a forthcoming biopic.

Producers Aaron Magnani and Alysia Allen have obtained the rights to Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywooda biography Jill Watts published in 2007, Variety reported earlier this week. McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1940 for her role as the house servant “Mammy” in “Gone With The Wind.” It wasn’t until 1964 that the next black actor, Sidney Poitier, would win an Academy Award. 

“Gone With The Wind” won eight Oscars, but all of its black actors ― including McDaniel ― were prohibited from attending the movie’s premiere in Georgia. 

McDaniel, a native of Wichita, Kansas, was born in 1893 to parents who were freed slaves. She started her career in entertainment as a vaudeville performer, which was a community of entertainers that appeared in variety shows around the U.S. in the late 19th century. She appeared on a radio show in the 1920s, making her one of the first black women to do so, and made her film debut in “The Golden West” in 1932. 

McDaniel in the 1939 film "Gone With The Wind," alongside British actress Vivien Leigh.
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
McDaniel in the 1939 film "Gone With The Wind," alongside British actress Vivien Leigh.

Civil rights groups criticized the actress for commonly taking on roles portraying domestic workers such as cooks and maids, and the NAACP said her characters often embodied negative racial stereotypes. 

“I have never apologized for the roles I play,” she wrote in a 1947 article later published in The Hollywood Reporter.

She added that she was happy about winning her Oscar, writing:

“My own people were especially happy. They felt that in honoring me, Hollywood had honored the entire race. That was the way I wanted it. This was too big a moment for my personal back-slapping. I wanted this occasion to prove an inspiration to Negro youth for many years to come.” 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that McDaniel won her Oscar in 1939. “Gone With The Wind” was released in 1939, but the award ceremony was held in 1940. 

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