HOLLYWOOD—In 1939, actress Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar after over a decade of dedication to her craft as an actress. Perhaps to young people today, that name doesn’t mean anything to them and her accomplishments even less. Miss McDaniel was not only a famous face and name during her era, but she became the first African American to win an Academy Award. She won the award for her pivotal and beloved role as Mammy in the world’s biggest motion picture in Hollywood’s century-long history. That film was “Gone with the Wind.” Miss McDaniel was even nominated that same year against her “GWTW” costar Olivia de Havilland, who portrayed Melanie in the category of Best Supporting Actress. Olivia de Havilland went on to win two Oscars for “To Each His Own” in 1946 and “The Heiress” in 1950, while like all other minorities at the time, Miss McDaniel’s life was much tougher. However, she never complained.

Young people today have no real idea what extraordinary accomplishments women and men like Miss McDaniel made in an era that was not very welcoming to women or minorities. McDaniel was refused the right to purchase a home in Beverly Hills and many other districts within our city because of the color of her skin. She was even refused entry at her death to one of our most historical cemeteries because of her race. Miss McDaniel’s attacks didn’t just come from the broader non-minority community. Many civil rights leaders attacked her for always accepting roles as a maid in the films she did at the time. She was quoted as telling a very esteemed reporter from a black-owned magazine, “I would rather play a maid, than be a maid, sir!” McDaniel and many others are being honored later this month and there is an opportunity for you to meet them, so to speak.

If you could meet suffragettes responsible for women getting the vote, what would you ask them? Or if you could meet the first “front page gal” at a Chicago newspaper in 1878, or if the first African American to win an Oscar. You can meet them all, and more, when the 20th annual Living History Tour at historic Angelus Rosedale Cemetery brings them all to “life” on Saturday, September 25.

The Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, one of the city’s oldest, most historically significant cemeteries, was founded in 1884, and is now home to many generations of Los Angeles’s early citizens, representing every race, faith and creed. Every year, West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA) focuses on some of their life stories by presenting a Living History Tour at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, featuring actor portrayals, graveside, of some of the individuals buried at the cemetery. This year, on the eve of the 100thanniversary of Women’s Suffrage in California, WAHA honors social reformers, headliners and pioneering females who were first in their fields.

Other famous people who are part of this honor include Caroline Severance, Clara Burdette and Dora Fellows Haynes (founders of the League of Women Voters), Annie Mae Wong (Pioneering Asian-American actress) and many others.

The tour raises funds for the West Adams Heritage Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 to support preservation of the community’s architectural and cultural heritage. WAHA has grown from a small resident support group to a recognized preservation voice with hundreds of members who live in the many neighborhoods of the Historic West Adams District. For more information on the tour and to support this worthy charity, go towestadamsheritage.org.

Photograph of Oscar-winner Hattie McDaniel is Courtesy: Marc Wanamaker, Bison Archives