McQUEEN, Thelma “Butterfly” (1911-95)
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African-American actress; originally a dancer. Best known for her portrayal as “Prissy” in the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind”.
SIG: Vintage signature on a small card. Professionally matted in pale blue suede board with an original, vintage MGM publicity still for “Gone With The Wind.”
McQueen was unable to attend the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” as it was held at a whites-only-theatre. 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”.
Ms. McQueen continued to appear in films of the 1940s then moved to television in the 1950s. As acting roles began to dry up, she devoted herself to other pursuits, including the study of political science. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from City College of New York in 1975.
McQueen was in the original version of the stage musical “The Wiz” when it debuted in Baltimore in 1974.
Ms. McQueen was an avowed atheist. In 1989, the Freedom From Religion Foundation honored her with its Freethought Heroine Award. Observed McQueen: “I’m an atheist 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 went on to tell a reporter “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.”
Tragically, McQueen died at the age of 84 from burns sustained when a kerosene heater she attempted to light malfunctioned and burst into flames.