Remembering Butterfly McQueen


Jan. 7, 1911-Dec. 22, 1995

Born in Tampa, Florida, Thelma McQueen was an American actress.

Originally a dancer, McQueen first appeared in film in 1939 as Prissy in “Gone with the Wind.” She was unable to attend the movie’s premiere because it was held at a whites-only theatre.

She continued as an actress in films during the 1940s and moved to television acting in the 1950s. She won a 1980 Daytime Emmy Award for her performance in an ABC Afterschool Special.

McQueen planned to become a nurse until a high school teacher suggested that she try acting. She initially studied with Janet Collins and went on to dance with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group.

That’s when she acquired the nickname “Butterfly” ­— a tribute to her constantly moving hands for her moving performance of the Butterfly Ballet in a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”


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