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Butterfly McQueen, the actress ideal remembered for she portrayal the Prissy in "Gone v the Wind," the vexing slave girl who confounded Scarlett O'Hara v the tearful pronouncement, "I don't understand nothin' 'bout birthin' babies, miss out on Scarlett," passed away yesterday. She was 84 year old.

Earlier in the day, Ms. McQueen was critically burned when a kerosene heater in she one-bedroom cottage just outside Augusta, Ga., recorded fire. She endured burns over 70 percent of she body and also died in ~ Augusta regional Medical Center.

After appearing in the Civil battle epic "Gone v the Wind" in 1939, Ms. McQueen's voice, squeaky and also high-pitched, became her most remarked-upon characteristic, prompting one critic to describe it together a "clarinet v a cold" and also another come comment that it was an "itsy-little voice fading end the much horizon that comprehension."

Although Ms. McQueen's function as Prissy earned her fame, it additionally brought she criticism in later years from civilization who thought about the function stereotypical and also demeaning.


"You know, now they speak to me one Uncle Thomasina," she said in 1970.

But Ms. McQueen, who committed her later on years to serving the African-American community, claimed she likewise felt it vital to acknowledge the history of black slavery in the united States.

"As i look back on "Gone v the Wind," because that instance, i feel it is helpful to have actually this authenticity," she as soon as said. "We've obtained to know an ext about whereby we've come from. I wasn't too happy around the totality thing, but also later in life, as I looked around, I determined to take what I could get and also then usage it because that what I desire to do."

Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, Fla., daughter that a housekeeper and a stevedore, Ms. McQueen very first developed a fondness because that acting as a child, when she would certainly recite whole books of the bible at home.

"All i knew together a child was church, church, church," she said.

When she parents separated, Ms. McQueen moved with her mom to Augusta, Ga., and also then to new York City. Together a teen-ager, she attended high college in Babylon, L.I., and also later moved to Harlem.

After a quick stint in nursing school, Ms. McQueen sought her acting career in earnest, finding that the stage was much an ext exciting 보다 a hospital. Her very first break came in 1937 when George Abbott offered her a role in "Brown Sugar." The present was a flop, but Ms. McQueen signed on together a irreversible member of the Abbott acting Company.


It was during her years through the acting firm that a friend referred to as her "Butterfly," after Ms. McQueen told her she had once danced a butterfly ballet in a power of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."


Soon after, Mr. Abbott tailored a function for her in "What a Life," i beg your pardon she play on Broadway. One evening, during an intermission in Philadelphia, she obtained a contract indigenous her firm for Prissy, a function she was initially rejected for after a talent scout called her too chubby. She obtained the good news with some reservation.

"I'd just come native a modern-day up-to-date incorporated school in 'What a Life' and I couldn't know why they'd want to bring ago the 1800s," Ms. McQueen said. "Most of mine friends were progressive, walk forward and looking forward. It was depressing for me."

Despite the success of "Gone v The Wind," Ms. McQueen discovered it increasingly daunting to uncover work in film and theater. She showed up in the movies "Mildred Pierce" and also "The Women," and also on numerous radio shows. In 1951, she put on a one-woman present at Carnegie Hall, however she soon discovered she had actually to take on other tasks to assistance herself. During the 1950's, she operated as a companion for a woman in long Island and sold toys at Macy's. In ~ one time, she began her own radio present in Augusta, "to instill proud in the neighborhood," she said.

In 1966, still can not to discover work as an actress, Ms. McQueen created a letter to a Georgia congressman asking him for assist in obtaining a job.

But it was upon her return to Harlem one year later that she found a 2nd vocation -- helping her community. She plunged into antipoverty work and took a task as a waitress in a soul food restaurant.

Fond that children, she operated at the mount Morris Park Recreation center as a receptionist. Her distinctive voice might be heard with the corridors together she provided tap dance and also ballet lessons. She identified herself at the moment through her commitment to the "black family," she said.

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Ever restless and determined, Ms. McQueen, who had actually never completed college, graduated v a degree in political scientific research from City university in 1975 in ~ the age of 64.