Travis Erwin came up with this great idea. On Mondays we blog about our home towns, or where we live or about some town. I'll be blogging about Denver.
Travis blogged about (yuck!) Dr. Phil. I'm blogging about Hattie McDaniel. Most of y'all know her as "Mammy" from Gone with the Wind. McDaniel wasn't born in Denver, but moved here when she was a little girl. Now, all this I've known for a while. What I didn't know, is that her family (her father was a freed slave) was lured here just like white folks were by the idea of striking it rich. There was a black prospector named Jeremiah Lee (former slave of Gen. Robert E. Lee) who hit the mother lode and was living it up in Central City.
During this time, 1890s-early 1900s Denver was very welcoming to blacks (y'all remember I pointed out that Madame C.J. Walker had started here in the early 1900s). The city had African Americans in city government and on the police force.
But as the black population grew, the white citizens became less hospitable. (Denver actually has quite the Klan legacy.) McDaniel's family struggled quite a bit, but Denver is where her career began. Her family's history and continuing racism is what led McDaniel to famously declare she'd "rather play a maid than be one."
McDaniel, of course, was the first black person to win an Oscar (and the first black person to even be invited to the ceremony--though she was made to sit at a different table). That means in one generation, her family went from slavery to Hollywood. I'm sure she took a lot of shit (from whites who were racists and blacks who saw her as a sell-out), but what an achievement!
And, good to know: Clark Gable was a good friend to her and advocated strongly on her behalf in Hollywood. I knew I always liked Rhett (especially more than ole wimpy Ashley!).