Butterfly McQueen (1911 - 1995)

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Butterfly McQueen Biography & Family History

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Birth

Death


Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Cause of death: Burns

Cause of death

Burns

Burial / Funeral

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Obituary

Last Known Residence

New York, New York County, NY

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Family

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Education

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.

Professions

Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen (January 7, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American actress.
Career[
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.

Organizations

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Military Service

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Middle name

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Maiden name

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Surnames

Ethnicity

Black

Nationality

American

Religion

None [she was adamant]

Gender

Female

Timeline

1911 - In the year that Butterfly McQueen was born, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire occurred, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history. 146 workers (123 women and 23 men, many of them recent Jewish and Italian immigrants) died from the fire or by jumping to escape the fire and smoke. The garment factory was on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of a building in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Doors to stairwells and exits had been locked in order to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to prevent theft, so they couldn't escape by normal means when the fire broke out. Due to the disaster, legislation was passed to protect sweatshop workers.

1959 - When she was 48 years old, on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

1966 - Butterfly was 55 years old when on July 1st, Medicare became available after President Johnson signed into law the Medicare Act in 1965. President Truman had received the first Medicare card since he had been the first to propose national healthcare law. insurance.

1981 - When she was 70 years old, on January 20th, Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States. He ran against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, and won 50.7% of the popular vote to Carter's 41.0%.

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.

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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.

Atheism
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.

Filmography
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

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