1800 was a century when more of the accomplishments of African Americans are documented. This month will focus on more African Americans and their lives.
Bert Williams was a Bahamian-born American entertainer, one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was born in the Bahamas in November of 1874. He is credited as being the first Black man to have the leading role in a film: Darktown Jubilee in 1914. Known as one of the highest paid African American performers in history, Williams worked in many productions including the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 with WC Fields, Fannie Brice, Eddie Cantor and more. In 1922 Williams collapsed on stage during a performance in Detroit, Michigan. He returned to New York and died at his home in March at the age of 47.
Hattie McDaniel was an American actress, singer-songwriter, and comedian born Kansas in 1893. She started working in minstrel shows and worked her way into radio. She wrote songs and sang for a record company before her big break came. In 1931 she moved to LA and later got a role in I’m No Angel with Mae West. The success of this movie helped her gain other roles. For her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar. McDaniel worked in over 300 films but was only credited in 83. She died in October of 1952 at the age of 59.