Monday, February 18, 2008

My Town Monday


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!).

12 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

Your person of interest is way better than mine, this week, but I figured if I started with Dr. Phil then I had no way to go but up.

And I agree, that is a phenomenal improvement on only one generation nd Rhett is way cooler than Ashley.

thanks for joining in.

Gina Black said...

I had no idea Hattie McDaniel was from Denver. I know she is buried here in L.A. and there's a memorial for her at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (I don't usually cemetery hop but I was location scouting with my daughter for her student film.)

This is such a great idea. I may have to join you next Monday if I can. There's always something past or present to blog about here. I could probably get away with an Oscar recap if nothing else. ;)

BTW--you are the winner on my book drawing this week! Congrats. Stop by for the details.

Sherry said...

Denver has quite the history -- I loved the biography about Madame C.J. Walker and I loved Hattie in "GWTW" -- she was a strong character..and praise to her for saying she'd rather "play a maid than be one" -- Me too -- I always preferred Rhett to Ashley....I often wondered what Scarlett was thinking pining after that mealy mouthed wimp!!

Patti said...

wow, nice first my town entry...and belated congratulations on the book.

Lisa said...

I had no idea she was from here! I have to confess, I've never been a GWTW fan, for the obvious reasons but considering the role it played in Hattie McDaniels' life, some good certainly came of it.

SUV MAMA said...

Great post- I just listened to Peter Boyles (yetserday, I think?) and he had a guest on speaking about the Klan legacy in Denver. I didn't realize how deep and how high up it was at one time.

Congratulations on the book! Are you going to be doing any local signings?

Carleen Brice said...

I *will* be doing local signings. Next Tuesday at the Tattered Cover LoDo at 7:30. March 8 at West Side Books at 7:30. April 16 at Southglen Library at 7 p.m. Please come!

Ello said...

Great post Carleen! I had no idea she lived in Denver. She was my favorite part of Gone with the Wind. Best facial expressions ever!

The Anti-Wife said...

Love the post. GWTW is one of my all time favorite films. Congratulations on your book!

WordVixen said...

Ello said my comment first. :) She was definitely the best part of Gone With The Wind. Great bit of history there!

Carleen Brice said...

Wow, Travis is on to something with these posts. Had no idea this would get this kind of response! Thanks everybody for stopping by!

Sustenance Scout said...

Even us locals want to know more about Denver, Carleen, so feel free to fill us in all you like! Hattie rocks, btw! K.