The Big Picture
- The first-ever Oscar won by a Black actor, Hattie McDaniel, will be replaced and donated to Howard University’s Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts after being missing for decades.
- The award, a plaque given to supporting actors between 1936 and 1942, was willed to Howard University but disappeared in the ’60s or ’70s.
- McDaniel’s won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.
Missing for decades, the first-ever Oscar won by a Black actor, Gone With the Wind’s Hattie McDaniel, will be replaced. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will donate the replica award to Howard University. Deadline reports that the award will be donated to the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at the University. McDaniel won the original award in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance as Mammy in 1939’s Gone with the Wind.
The statue was willed to Howard University upon her death in 1952, but disappeared at some point in the ’60s or ’70s, and has never been recovered. Boseman College dean Phylicia Rashad stated “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!”
Unlike modern Oscars, McDaniel’s award is a plaque, not a statuette, as were all the awards given to supporting actors and actresses between 1936 and 1942. Howard University will host a ceremony commemorating the award’s return, “Hattie’s Come Home”, at its Ira Aldridge Theater in Washington, D.C., on October 1.
Who Was Hattie McDaniel?
Born in Wichita, Kansas in 1893, Hattie McDaniel had a successful singing career before she moved to Los Angeles and got into the motion picture business. She starred in I’m No Angel with Mae West, The Little Colonel with Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Show Boat, where she had her own musical number. She found great success in 1939’s Gone With the Wind, where she played Mammy; however, due to the Jim Crow laws of the time, McDaniel was not allowed to attend the film’s Atlanta premiere.
Nevertheless, she won Best Supporting Actress for the film, one of eight Oscars it earned. While she attended the awards ceremony, it was segregated. McDaniel’s win was controversial in the Black community, due to the stereotypical nature of her role and the film’s romanticization of the Confederacy’s white supremacy. McDaniel continued to have a successful career afterward, and briefly starred in her own TV series, Beulah, reprising a character she’d played on the radio before illness forced her to retire. She died of breast cancer in 1952. No other Black woman would win an Oscar until 1990 when Whoopi Goldberg won Best Supporting Actress for Ghost.
Over 80 years after its premiere, Gone With the Wind remains controversial, though it is still the highest-grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation. It was briefly removed from streaming on HBO Max, but returned once historical context and a denunciation of the racism expressed in the film was added to its presentation.
Howard University will commemorate the return of Hattie McDonald’s Oscar on October 1. Stay tuned to Collider for future updates.