Hattie McDaniel

I did my best and God did the rest

Gone with the Wind actress Hattie McDaniel was the first African American star to win an Academy Award. But this wasn't the only first for this dynamo of a woman.

Born in 1893 in Kansas to parents who had endured slavery, Hattie had 12 siblings and worked on her big brother's minstrel show, writing songs. In 1920 she sang on American radio, singing with a group called the Melody Hounds.

When great Depression began, Hattie could only find work as a restroom attendant in a nightclub. But her talent was not hidden long. Soon she appeared on the stage instead, performing for the patrons.

Moving to LA to follow her dreams, she took on menial labour to support herself, but soon got a spot acting on a radio show. Her first minor film part was in 1932. She took on many other roles, often as maids or in background parts, but soon started receiving attention.

Her singing, and vibrant personality made her a popular choice and garnered her a role in the musical hit Show Boat (1936). But it was as Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939) that Hattie proved herself to the world, as Best Supporting Actress winner at the Oscars in 1940.

When Hattie died from cancer in 1952 her funeral was attended by thousands. Her memory is enshrined with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.