The Academy Replaces Hattie McDaniel’s Historic Oscar at Howard University

The “Gone With the Wind” actress made history as the first Black person to be nominated and win an Oscar – but the award went missing years ago

Hattie McDaniel is shown with the statuette she received for her portrayal in "Gone With The Wind." (Credit: The Academy)
Hattie McDaniel is shown with the statuette she received for her portrayal in "Gone With The Wind." (Credit: The Academy)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving the Howard University Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts a replacement award for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that Hattie McDaniel won for “Gone With the Wind” in 1940.

McDaniel was the first Black person to be nominated and win an Academy Award — and would remain the only Black woman to win an Oscar until 1991, when Whoopi Goldberg won for her supporting role in “Ghost.” At the 12th Academy Awards ceremony in 1940, which was held at the segregated Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, McDaniel and her guest were not allowed to sit with the rest of the many “Gone With the Wind” nominees.

Hattie McDaniel with her Best Supporting Actress plaque (Bettmann/Getty Images) and the reproduction going to Howard University (Owen Kolasinski/© Academy Museum Foundation)

McDaniel won for playing “Mammy,” Scarlett O’Hara’s maid, and she received a plaque, as was the tradition for supporting performances from 1936 to 1942. She bequeathed her Oscar to Howard University, where it was displayed from 1952 (the year of her death) until the late 1960s, when it went missing. (Its whereabouts are still unknown.) Howard will host a “Hattie Comes Home” ceremony at its Ira Aldridge Theater in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. 

In a statement, Stewart and Academy CEO Bill Kramer said, “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. This momentous occasion will celebrate Hattie McDaniel’s remarkable craft and historic win.”

That event will celebrate McDaniel’s career as a performer of the stage, radio and screen who appeared in an estimated 300 movies. A statement from the Academy pointed out that the Academy Museum “has honored and contextualized McDaniel’s legacy in both the Academy Awards History Gallery and its temporary exhibition ‘Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971.’”

At the “Hattie Comes Home” ceremony, Phylicia Rashad, Dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, will deliver opening remarks, which will be followed by performances from students and faculty. Several representatives of the Academy and the Academy Museum will attend, including EVP of Oscars Strategy Teni Melidonian, who will present the plaque to the university, and Jacqueline Stewart, Ph.D., director and president of the Academy Museum, who will host a moderated conversation about McDaniel’s career with Greg Carr, Ph.D., Howard University associate professor of Africana studies and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies. Kevin John Goff, a filmmaker and actor who is McDaniel’s great-grandnephew, will also be in attendance.  

In her own statement, Rashad said, “When I was a student in the College of Fine Arts at Howard University, in what was then called the Department of Drama, I would often sit and gaze in wonder at the Academy Award that had been presented to Ms. Hattie McDaniel, which she had gifted to the College of Fine Arts. I am overjoyed that this Academy Award is returning to what is now the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University. This immense piece of history will be back in the College of Fine Arts for our students to draw inspiration from. Ms. Hattie is coming home!”


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