Award for First Black Actor to Win Oscar Is Heading 'Home'

Academy gifts replacement for Hattie McDaniel's plaque for 'Gone With the Wind' to Howard U
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 27, 2023 1:58 PM CDT
'Hattie's Come Home': Missing Oscar to Be Replaced
Actor Fay Bainter, right, appears with actor Hattie McDaniel the night McDaniel won best supporting actress for her role in the 1939 film "Gone With the Wind" in Los Angeles on Feb. 29, 1940.   (AP Photo, File)

Hattie McDaniel's best supporting actress Oscar for 1939's Gone With the Wind is one of the most important moments in Academy Award history. McDaniel was the first African American to win an Oscar, and it would be a half-century before another Black woman again won an acting award. But the whereabouts of her award itself has long been unknown. Now, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has created a replacement of McDaniel's legendary Academy Award that it's giving to Howard University, per the AP. McDaniel's award was a plaque, not a statuette, as all supporting acting winners received from 1936 to 1942.

Upon her death in 1952, McDaniel bequeathed her Oscar to Howard University, where it was displayed at the drama department until the late '60s. It's not clear what happened to the plaque after that, though several theories have been bandied about over the years, including that it had been thrown into the Potomac River by student activists. A George Washington University law school professor who's looked into the matter has since "largely dismissed" that theory, per People. The film academy, along with the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, announced Tuesday that the replacement award will reside at the university's Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.

The Oscar will be presented in a ceremony titled "Hattie's Come Home" on Oct. 1 on the campus of the university in Washington, DC. "Hattie McDaniel was a groundbreaking artist who changed the course of cinema and impacted generations of performers who followed her. We are thrilled to present a replacement of Hattie McDaniel's Academy Award to Howard University," said Jacqueline Stewart, Academy Museum president, and Bill Kramer, chief executive of the academy, in a joint statement.

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"This momentous occasion will celebrate Hattie McDaniel's remarkable craft and historic win," the statement added. During the 12th Academy Awards in February 1940, McDaniel was seated at a segregated table on the far side of the room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. "I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry," McDaniel said upon accepting the award. "My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you." McDaniel died in 1952 of breast cancer at the age of 59.

(More Oscars stories.)

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