Butterfly McQueen (1911 - 1995)

A photo of Butterfly McQueen
Butterfly McQueen
1911 - 1995
updated December 05, 2019
Butterfly McQueen was born on January 8, 1911 in Augusta, Georgia. She died on December 22, 1995 in Augusta, Georgia at 84 years of age. We know that Butterfly McQueen had been residing in New York, New York County, New York 10031.

I was her publicist when she was in Robert Dahdah and Mary Boylan's "Curley McDimple."
She was wonderful to know and never gave anyone a hard time. She was modest and sweet and happy to be on Broadway.

Butterfly McQueen Biography

With today's technology we are able to write and share our own history which lasts forever online. Our ancestors never had a chance to document their lives. This biography is dedicated to memorialize the life of Butterfly McQueen, honor her ancestry & genealogy, and her immediate Mcqueen family.

Most Commonly Known Name

Butterfly McQueen

First name


Middle name


Maiden name


Last Name(s)

Nickname(s) or aliases

Butterfly McQueen




Butterfly McQueen was born on in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States


Butterfly McQueen died on in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States

Cause of death


Burial / Funeral

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Ethnicity & Lineage


Nationality & Locations Lived



None [she was adamant]

Last Known Residence

New York, New York County, New York 10031


Early life and Education
Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, Florida, on January 7, 1911, she planned to become a nurse until a high school teacher suggested that she try acting. McQueen initially studied with Janet Collins and went on to dance with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group. Around this time she acquired the nickname "Butterfly" – a tribute to her constantly moving hands – for her performance of the Butterfly Ballet in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. (She had always hated her birth name, and later legally changed her name to Butterfly McQueen.) She performed with the dance troupe of Katherine Dunham before making her professional debut in George Abbott's Brown Sugar. In 1975, at age 64, McQueen received a bachelor's degree in political science from New York City College.


Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen (January 7, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American actress.
McQueen's first role would become her most identifiable – Prissy, the young slave in Gone with the Wind. She uttered the famous words: "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!" Her distinctive, high-pitched voice was noted by a critic who described it as "the itsy-little voice fading over the far horizon of comprehension". While the role is well known to audiences, McQueen did not enjoy playing the part and felt it was demeaning to African-Americans.Originally a dancer, McQueen first appeared in film in 1939 as Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid, in the film Gone with the Wind. She was unable to attend the movie's premiere because it was held at a whites-only theater. Often typecast as a maid, she said: "I didn't mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over, I resented it. I didn't mind being funny, but I didn't like being stupid."

She continued as an actress in film in the 1940s, and then moved to television acting in the 1950s.

Personal Life & Organizations

She was a member of the Screen Actors' Guild and Actors Equity Association.

Military Service

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Butterfly McQueen Family Tree

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Butterfly McQueen Obituary

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Butterfly McQueen

Born Thelma McQueen
January 7, 1911
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Died December 22, 1995 (aged 84)
Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
Cause of death Burns
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1989

Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen (January 7, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American actress. Originally a dancer, McQueen first appeared in film in 1939 as Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid, in the film Gone with the Wind. She was unable to attend the movie's premiere because it was held at a whites-only theater. Often typecast as a maid, she said: "I didn't mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over, I resented it. I didn't mind being funny, but I didn't like being stupid."

She continued as an actress in film in the 1940s, and then moved to television acting in the 1950s.

She also played an uncredited bit part as a sales assistant in The Women (1939), filmed after Gone with the Wind but released before it. She also played Butterfly, Rochester's niece and Mary Livingstone's maid in the Jack Benny radio program for a time during World War II. She appeared in an uncredited role in Mildred Pierce (1945) (where she had a good amount of screen time) and played a supporting role in Duel in the Sun (1946). By 1947, she had grown tired of the ethnic stereotypes she was required to play and ended her film career.

During World War II, McQueen frequently appeared as a comedian on the Armed Forces Radio Service broadcast Jubilee. Many of these broadcasts are available on the Internet Archive.

From 1950 until 1952 she was featured in another racially stereotyped role on the television series Beulah. She played Beulah's friend Oriole, a character originated on radio by Ruby Dandridge, who would then take over the TV role from McQueen in 1952-53. In a lighter moment, she appeared in a 1969 episode of The Dating Game.

Offers for acting roles began to dry up around this time, and she devoted herself to other pursuits including political study. She received a bachelor's degree in political science from City College of New York in 1975. McQueen played the character of Aunt Thelma, a fairy godmother, in the ABC Weekend Special episode "The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody" (1978) and the ABC Afterschool Special episode "Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid" (1979); her performance in the latter earned her a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming. She had one more role of substance in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast.

McQueen was in the original version of the stage musical The Wiz when it debuted in Baltimore in 1974. She played the Queen of the Field Mice, a character from the original L. Frank Baum novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, when the show was revised prior to going to Broadway, McQueen's role was cut by incoming director Geoffrey Holder.

Personal life
McQueen never married or had any children. She lived in New York in the summer months and in Augusta, Georgia, during the winter.

In July 1983, a jury awarded McQueen $60,000 in a judgment stemming from a lawsuit she filed against two bus terminal security guards. McQueen sued for harassment after she claimed the security guards accused her of being a pickpocket and a vagrant while she was at a bus terminal in April 1979.

In 1989, the Freedom From Religion Foundation honored her with its Freethought Heroine Award. "I'm an atheist," she had declared, "and Christianity appears to me to be the most absurd imposture of all the religions, and I'm puzzled that so many people can't see through a religion that encourages irresponsibility and bigotry." She told a reporter, "As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion." This quote was used by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in advertisements inside Madison, Wisconsin, buses in 2009 and in an Atlanta market in 2010.[

She lamented that, had humans put the energy on Earth and on people that had been put on mythology and on Jesus Christ, there would be less hunger and homelessness. "They say the streets are going to be beautiful in Heaven. Well, I'm trying to make the streets beautiful here ... When it's clean and beautiful, I think America is heaven. And some people are hell."

Later life and death
McQueen died at age 84 on December 22, 1995, at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, from burns sustained when a kerosene heater she attempted to light malfunctioned and burst into flames.

McQueen donated her body to medical science] and remembered the Freedom From Religion Foundation in her will.

Year Title Role Notes
1939 The Women Lulu - Cosmetics Counter Maid Uncredited
1939 Gone with the Wind Prissy
1941 Affectionately Yours Butterfly
1943 Cabin in the Sky Lily
1943 I Dood It Annette Alternative title: By Hook or by Crook
1945 Flame of Barbary Coast Beulah – Flaxen's Maid Alternative title: Flame of the Barbary Coast
1945 Mildred Pierce Lottie – Mildred's Maid Uncredited
1946 Duel in the Sun Vashti Alternative title: King Vidor's Duel in the Sun
1948 Killer Diller Butterfly
1950 Studio One Episode: "Give Us Our Dream"
1950 to 1953 Beulah Oriole 4 episodes
1951 Lux Video Theatre Mary Episode: "Weather for Today"
1957 Hallmark Hall of Fame Episode: "The Green Pastures"
1970 The Phynx Herself
1974 Amazing Grace Clarine
1978 ABC Weekend Special Aunt Thelma Episode: "The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody"
1979 ABC Afterschool Special Aunt Thelma Episode: "Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid"
1981 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Television movie
1985 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Blind Negress Television movie
1986 The Mosquito Coast Ma Kennywick
1988 The Making of a Legend: Gone With The Wind Herself (Interview) Television documentary
1989 Polly Miss Priss Television movie

Further reading
Butterfly McQueen Remembered by Stephen Bourne 2008

Other Records of Butterfly McQueen

1911 - 1995 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Butterfly's lifetime

In 1911, in the year that Butterfly McQueen was born, the first Indianapolis 500 was run in May. Ray Harroun was the winner - he was an engineer and had retired from racing but he came back for this race. After the race, he retired for good. The purse was $27,550 - the largest offered up to that time - and Harroun received $10,000 for first place. His average time was 74.602 mph.

In 1939, by the time she was 28 years old, in May, Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated film, reached a total international gross of $6.5 million which made it (to then) the most successful sound film of all time. First released in December 1937, it was originally dubbed "Disney's Folly" but the premiere received a standing ovation from the audience. At the 11th Academy Awards in February 1939, Walt Disney won an Academy Honorary Award - a full-size Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones - for Snow White.

In 1949, Butterfly was 38 years old when on April 4th, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was established. Twelve nations originally signed the North Atlantic Treaty - the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined. Today, there are 26 nations in NATO.

In 1950, when she was 39 years old, on June 25th, the Korean War began when North Korean Communist forces crossed the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea and the U.N., primarily the United States backed South Korea.

In 1995, in the year of Butterfly McQueen's passing, on May 19th, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil - before 9/11 - took place in Oklahoma City. A truck bomb went off outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown - killing 68 people, injuring more than 680 others, and destroying one-third of the building. The most disturbing images were of children - a daycare center was hit by the bomb. The deadliest incident of domestic terrorism ever, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier were convicted of the bombing.

Other Biographies

Other Mcqueens

Thomas Mcqueen
Mar 28, 1918 - December 1967
Vincent Mcqueen
Dec 28, 1918 - May 1977
New York, NY
James Mcqueen
Dec 9, 1919 - August 1986
Selma, AL
Amelia Mcqueen
Sep 22, 1905 - May 1976
Frieda Mcqueen
Sep 26, 1899 - June 1983
Brooklyn, NY
Eva Mcqueen
Sep 12, 1897 - Mar 29, 1997
Gasport, NY
Vera Mcqueen
Mar 15, 1897 - July 1982
Sherman Mcqueen
Dec 25, 1902 - Dec 1, 1991
Rosemary Mcqueen
Sep 24, 1948 - Jun 14, 2001
John Mcqueen
Dec 17, 1903 - Mar 22, 1988
Brooklyn, NY
Kathryn Mcqueen
Jul 7, 1888 - May 1969
Tampa, FL
Dorothy Mcqueen
Sep 25, 1908 - June 1987
West Haverstraw, NY
William A Mcqueen
Mar 9, 1919 - May 27, 1996
Louisville, CO
Frances G Mcqueen
May 21, 1928 - Mar 6, 2006
Lithonia, GA
Julius Mcqueen
Jan 11, 1895 - May 1976
New York, NY
Eunice F Mcqueen
Feb 7, 1918 - Jul 5, 2004
Jamaica, NY
June Mcqueen
Sep 5, 1917 - August 1981
Asheboro, NC
Barbara W Mcqueen
Aug 27, 1921 - May 1, 2002
Neptune, NJ
Joan Mcqueen
Jun 29, 1935 - Nov 9, 2005
Bronx, NY
Marvin Mcqueen
Dec 10, 1939 - Dec 20, 2005
Buffalo, NY

Other Bios

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Dec 13, 1893 - November 1964
New York
Anna Eure
Sep 2, 1901 - Oct 14, 1992
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Libby Robinson
Feb 27, 1904 - Sep 29, 1992
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Marion A Garvin
Jun 24, 1909 - January 1987
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Estelle Hemsley
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Robert Miller
Aug 3, 1909 - July 1973
Ymske T Ebenstein
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Max Shohet
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Vito Piazza
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Dillard Long
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Jack Abrams
Dec 14, 1899 - February 1980
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Jack P Michaels
Sep 2, 1906 - Feb 7, 1990
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May Callas
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Cosmo Martucciello
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Giuseppi Ferranti
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Anna Caracappa
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Blanche Klar
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Kathleen C Christie
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Susan Odonnell
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