Margaret Mitchell was an OMG (Old Money Gal), born into a prominent family and blessed with a privileged life as a child. Acting in plays, riding horses, and writing short stories, she expressed her individuality and independent nature a at a young age. Her proper parents cringed at her style of dress and occasional outlandish behavior, but were certain that, eventually, a good education and time would shape her into a young lady, ready to assume her position in society.
When the young Atlanta native attended Smith College in 1918, she was appalled to encounter African American students sharing her classroom. She had never experienced integration and was very vocal about her dislike for the arrangement. Her time there lasted only a year, and she was soon back in the South, where her views on race once again found a comfortable and sympathetic environment.
A bad marriage and a roller coaster of health issues brought her low, even as she continued her trailblazing ways, becoming the first female news reporter in Atlanta.
Finally, she found stability in a good marriage with a good man, and during a few months of forced bed rest for a bad ankle, wrote her first and only novel, Gone With The Wind.
A scout from a New York publishing house was in the area, and a friend of Margaret’s told him to contact her about the manuscript that had littered her living room floor for more than a year. Margaret was reluctant to let him read it, but finally did. The rest is literary history.
Fame and fortune followed book sales like in a flood. Hollywood’s adaptation of the novel created a legend. The telephone of her Atlanta home rang at all hours of the day and night: strangers called, many asking whatever happened to Rhett and Scarlett, and would there be a sequel. The housekeeper dutifully told each and every one she didn’t know, and no.
In the quiet evenings that inevitably follow celebrity’s storm, little noticed African American messengers, ubiquitous in the city at that time, hurried to and from the Mitchell residence. They shuttled clandestine correspondence back and forth between the author and the president of Atlanta’s all-black Morehouse College. She wanted to help, anonymously but effectively.
Unknown to the public until after her death, Margaret Mitchell donated a substantial sum to the college, enabling an estimated 75 African American men to complete medical school and become doctors. She also contributed to the construction of a local hospital that would serve Atlanta’s black community.
At some point during her short life–she was hit by an automobile and killed at age 48–she examined her views on race and had the courage to change.
If we’re going to improve our lives–financially or personally–we have to have that same courage.
Find it. Embrace it. Move forward.