Skip to main content

Hattie McDaniel

Black Ambition, White Hollywood

Jill Watts


List Price: 27.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (2/6/2007)


From an accomplished historian comes an uncompromising look at the pervasive racism in Hollywood, as seen through the life and times of actress Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel is best known for her performance as Mammy, the sassy foil to Scarlett O’Hara in the movie classic Gone with the Wind. Her powerful performance won her an Oscar® and bolstered the hopes of black Hollywood that the entertainment industry was finally ready to write more multidimensional, fully-realized roles for blacks.

But despite this victory, and pleas by organizations such as the NAACP and SAG, roles for blacks continued to denigrate the African American experience. So Hattie McDaniel continued to play servants. “I’d rather play a maid then be a maid,” Hattie McDaniel answered her critics, but her flip response belied a woman who was emotionally conflicted. Here, in an exhaustively detailed and incisive text by a talented historian, is the story of a valiant woman who defied the racism of her time.

Praise For Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood

“A provocative biography.”
— Edward Rothstein, The New York Times on Mae West: An Icon in Black and White

“Fascinating. . .A compelling, disturbing history of blacks in early Hollwyood.”
Publishers Weekly

Amistad, 9780060514907, 368pp.

Publication Date: September 27, 2005

About the Author

A professor of history at California State University and the coordinator of the film studies program at California State University, San Marcos, Jill Watts has written two previous books, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story and Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. She lives in San Marcos, California.