Deathiversary: Hattie McDaniel (October 26, 1952)

Hattie McDaniel is born to former slaves in 1893. She becomes the first African American to win the Academy Award for her performance in the 1939 film, "Gone with the Wind.” When McDaniel takes the stage at the 12th Academy Awards in 1940, she is the only black woman in the room. The ceremony that year is held at the segregated Ambassador Hotel where Robert Kennedy is assassinated decades later. She appears in 300 films but is only credited in about 80 of them. As historic as McDaniel's win is… it will take nearly a quarter century before Oscar crowns another black actor - Sidney Poitier wins in 1963’s “Lilies of the Field.” McDaniel dies of breast cancer at age 57 on October 26, 1952. In her will, McDaniel writes: "I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses. I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery.” Hollywood Cemetery, now named Hollywood Forever Cemetery, is the resting place of movie stars like Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino. Its owner at the time, Jules Roth, refuses to allow McDaniel to be buried there, because, at the time of her death, the cemetery is segregation and will not accept the remains of black people for burial. Her second choice is Rosedale Cemetery (now known as Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery), where she lies today. 

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