Arago: Exhibits

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Breaking Racial Boundaries

African American actors and singers experienced extreme discrimination in both their personal and professional lives during the twentieth century. However, despite this hardship, many African American performers still achieved national success in their careers. One particular actress that persevered through racism is Hattie McDaniel.

Although there are many African American artists that broke through the racial boundaries of their time, Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952) is one of the most accomplished African American actresses of the 1930’s. As many actresses of the 1920’s and 1930’s did, McDaniel started out her career in vaudeville. She then expanded her career through singing with the Morrison Orchestra. In 1931 McDaniel shifted from stage to screen and started appearing in films, and eventually achieved national fame with her role as Mammy in the film, Gone With the Wind. She became the first African American to attend the Academy Awards in 1939, when she won the award for best supporting actress.

Because of her contributions to film, the Postal service issued a Hattie McDaniel stamp in her honor. The stamp was issued at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, as part of the Black Heritage Series. The stamp features a portrait created by Tim O’Brian that is based on a 1941 photograph of McDaniel.