a Negro infidel quest for freedom, justice and equality

Ms. Butterfly McQueen

In Uncategorized on September 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen (January 8, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American actress. Originally a dancer, McQueen appeared as Prissy, Scarlett O’Hara’s maid in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.

Early life
Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, Florida, she had 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.

Career
McQueen’s first role would become her most identifiable —as Prissy, the young maid in Gone with the Wind, uttering the famous words: “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!” She also played an uncredited bit part as a sales assistant in The Women, filmed after Gone with the Wind but released before it. She also played Butterfly, 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) 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.

Legacy and Death
McQueen never married or had children. She lived in New York in the summer months, and in Augusta, Georgia during the winter. She died December 22, 1995 at the Augusta Regional Medical Center in Augusta, as a result of burns received when a kerosene heater she was attempting to light malfunctioned and burst into flames. A lifelong atheist, she donated her body to medical science and remembered the Freedom From Religion Foundation in her will.

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