Long before Sidney, Lou, Denzel, Whoopi, Halle, Jamie and Jennifer won and nominations were bestowed upon Mo’Nique and Gabby, Taraji and Viola, Angela and Laurence, Ruby, Cicely, Diahann and Dorothy, among them, we had Hattie McDaniel. Seventy years ago, McDaniel became the first Black performer to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in the epic drama, “Gone With the Wind.” While she’s widely-recognized for receiving such an honor, the Kansas-born performer’s talents stretched far beyond the big screen. In fact, she’s also been credited as the first Black performer to sing on American radio. For her efforts, she received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame–one for her work in radio and the other for her groundbreaking work on the big screen–as well as a coveted postage stamp created in her honor. Even after all these years, we still get chills when we hear her ever-humble acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in 1940. On Sunday, we will make history with Black actresses being nominated in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. Along with the accomplishments of Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique, we can’t forget director Lee Daniels who is up for Best Director and Best Picture for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” Best Screenplay nominee, Geoffrey Fletcher or producer Broderick Johnson, who also earned a Best Picture nomination for “The Blind Side.” Something tells us that the 82nd Annual Academy Awards will be quite a night for us. We can only imagine how proud Ms. McDaniel would be to know how far we’ve come.
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