Butterfly McQueen: Wikis


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Butterfly McQueen

in Affectionately Yours (1941)
Born Thelma McQueen
January 7, 1911(1911-01-07)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Died December 22, 1995 (aged 84)
Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1989

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.[1]


McQueen's first role would become her most identifiable role—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.

From 1950 until 1952 she played another racially-stereotyped role on the television series Beulah, which reunited her with her Gone with the Wind co-star Hattie McDaniel. In a lighter moment, she appeared in a 1969 episode of The Dating Game.

Her acting roles after this were very few, and she devoted herself to other pursuits including study, and received a Bachelor's degree in political science from City College of New York in 1975.[2] In 1979 McQueen won a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance as Aunt Thelma, a fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special episode "The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody."[3] She had one more role of some substance in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast.

Later years, death, and Atheism

McQueen never married and never had children. She lived in New York in the summer months, and in Augusta, Georgia during the winter.[4] On December 22, 1995, McQueen died 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.[5] A lifelong atheist,[6] she donated her body to medical science[2] and remembered the Freedom From Religion Foundation in her will.


  • "As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion."[7] (this quote was used by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in advertisements inside Madison, Wisconsin buses in 2009).[8]


Year Title Role Notes
1939 The Women Lulu - Costmetics Counter Maid Uncredited
Gone with the Wind Prissy
1941 Affectionately Yours Butterfly
1943 Cabin in the Sky Lily
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
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
1970 The Phynx Herself
1974 Amazing Grace Clarine
1986 The Mosquito Coast Ma Kennywick
Year Title Role Notes
1950 Studio One 1 episode
1950-1953 Beulah Oriole Unknown episodes
1951 Lux Video Theatre Mary 1 episode
1957 Hallmark Hall of Fame 1 episode
1978 ABC Weekend Special Aunt Thelma 1 episode
1979 ABC Afterschool Special Aunt Thelma 1 episode
1981 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Television movie
1985 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Blind Negress Television movie
1988 The Making of a Legend: Gone With The Wind Herself (Interview) Television Documentary
1989 Polly Miss Priss Television movie


  1. ^ JM Appel. Butterfly McQueen. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Jan. 1 2000.
  2. ^ a b "Butterfly McQueen, 84, 'Gone With the Wind' Actress, Dies From Burns". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 89 (9): 60. 1996-01-15. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  3. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365740/
  4. ^ Edward T. James,; Sicherman, Barbara; Wilson James, Janet ; Boyer, Paul S.; Ware, Susan (2004). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Harvard University Press. pp. 438. ISBN 0-674-01488-X. 
  5. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (1995-12-23). "Butterfly McQueen Dies at 84; Played Scarlett O'Hara's Maid". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E4DD1539F930A15751C1A963958260. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  6. ^ Suman, Michael (1997). Religion and Prime Time Television. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 22. ISBN 0-275-96034-X. 
  7. ^ Freedom From Religion Foundation
  8. ^ "Atheists, church face off in Madison bus advertising". jsonline.com. 2009-03-11. http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/41131567.html#. 

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