Happy 121st (123rd?) Birthday, Hattie McDaniel!

Hattie McDaniel was born 121 (or perhaps 123—see below) years ago today in Wichita, Kansas. If we were to make a list of departed stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood whom we’d like to meet in heaven, Ms. McDaniel would most certainly be on it.

Here are 10 Hattie McDaniel Did-You-Knows?:

  • In the 1910s and ’20s, McDaniel worked as a vocalist in a band
  • It’s thought by some that she was the first African-American woman to sing on the radio, when she appeared on a Denver-based broadcast as the vocalist for Professor George Morrison’s Negro Orchestra.
  • She made her movie debut in The Golden West (1932).
  • McDaniel was the first African American to win an
    Academy Award.
  • In addition to work in pictures, McDaniel kept busy in radio, playing recurring roles on Amos and Andy and on Eddie Cantor‘s radio programs. She also starred in her own radio show, Beulah, from 1947-1951 (the show later migrated to television).
  • Her siblings Sam and Etta McDaniel also acted in pictures.
  • Her father was a former slave.
  • McDaniel was depicted on a USA commemorative postage stamp, issued on January 25, 2006.
  • Hattie McDaniel may have been two years older than she claimed. The 1895 Kansas census cited her age as two.
  • McDaniel’s wish to be buried in Hollywood was denied due to racial attitudes and practices of the day when she died in 1952; she was instead interred at Los Angeles’ Rosedale Cemetery. A pink-and-gray granite monument in her memory was placed in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 1999, 47 years after her death.

Happy birthday, Ms. McDaniel, wherever you maybe!

Hattie McDaniel