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Where McDaniel's stature and popularity should have increased after Selznick's masterpiece came out, as was the case for her white counterparts, hers declined, as an increasingly politicized black audience turned against her. "I'd rather play a maid than be a maid," is how McDaniel answered her critics. Yet her flippant response belied a woman whose hardscrabble background rendered her emotionally conflicted about the roles she accepted. Here, at last, in a finely tuned biography by Jill Watts, is her story.
Watts, a highly praised researcher and writer, shares little-known aspects of McDaniel's life, from her dealings with Hollywood's power brokers and black political organizations to her successful civil rights battle to integrate a Los Angeles neighborhood, revealing a woman hailed by Ebony as an achiever of "more firsts in Hollywood" than any other black entertainer of her time.
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