Hattie McDaniel was born on June 10, 1895, to a family of entertainers in Wichita, Kansas. She was her parents' 13th child. Her father, Henry, was a Baptist minister who played the banjo and performed in minstrel shows. Her mother, Susan Holbert, was a gospel singer. In 1901, McDaniel and her family moved to Denver, Colorado. McDaniel attended the 24th Street Elementary School in Denver.
Where she was one of only two black students in her class. Her natural flair for singing in church, at school and in her home was apparent early on. That’s how she gained her popularity among her classmates. McDaniel attended Denver East High School for two years. McDaniel started professionally singing, dancing and performing funny skits in minstrel shows. She was a natural.
In 1910, she decided to leave school in order to train with her father's minstrel troupe full time. In 1920, she became a member of Professor George Morrison's orchestra. She toured with his and other vaudeville troops for the next five years. In 1925, she was invited to perform on Denver's KOA radio station. The performance gave McDaniel the illustrious distinction of being one of the first African-American women to sing on the radio. When work was slow, she took a job as a restroom attendant to supplement her income.
A year or so later, McDaniel's brother, Sam, and sister, Etta, convinced her to move to Los Angeles. Where they had managed to procure minor movie roles for themselves. Sam was also a regular on a KNX radio show. After a while, McDaniel had a chance to appear on her brother's radio show. She was a quick hit with listeners. McDaniel landed her first major on-screen break in 1934, Judge Priest.
In 1939, McDaniel accepted a role that would mark the highlight of her entertainment career. As Mammy, Scarlett O'Hara's house servant in Gone with the Wind. McDaniel earned the 1940 Academy Award for best supporting actress. She was the first African American to win an...