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Hattie McDaniel’s lost historic Oscar to be replaced by Academy

Hattie McDaniel the night she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind in Los Angeles on 29 Feb. 1940.
Hattie McDaniel the night she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind in Los Angeles on 29 Feb. 1940. Copyright AP - Owen Kolasinski/© Academy Museum Foundation.
Copyright AP - Owen Kolasinski/© Academy Museum Foundation.
By David Mouriquand
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Film academy gifts a replacement of Hattie McDaniel's historic Oscar to Howard University.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures are replacing Gone With The Wind actress Hattie McDaniel’s lost Oscar.

McDaniel was the first Black person to be nominated for and win an Academy Award. Her Best Supporting Actress win for Victor Fleming’s 1939 American epic historical romance, adapted from the novel by Margaret Mitchell, remains one of the most important moments in Oscar history.

In 1940, McDaniel took home a plaque instead of an Oscar statue, as was customary for supporting actors at the time.

McDaniel originally donated her Academy Award to Howard University upon her death in 1952. The award was displayed at the university’s drama department until the late 1960s when it disappeared.

Now, the Academy is bestowing a new Oscar statuette in the late actress’ honour to the Howard University Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.

“Hattie McDaniel was a groundbreaking artist who changed the course of cinema and impacted generations of performers who followed her,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer said in an official statement. “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.”

Howard University will host a ceremony titled “Hattie’s Come Home” at its Ira Aldridge Theater in Washington, D.C., on 1 October to mark the homecoming of the award.

Following McDaniel’s win, it took more than half a century for another Black woman to win an acting Oscar. Whoopi Goldberg won Best Supporting Actress for Ghost in 1991, and Halle Berry later became the first Black woman to win Best Actress for her work in Monster’s Ball in 2002.

Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in approximately 300 films. The daughter of slaves, McDaniel called winning the Oscar for Gone With The Wind as “one of the happiest moments of my life” in her acceptance speech.

“It has made me feel very, very humble and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything I may be able to do in the future,” McDaniel said in 1940. “I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel. And may I say thank you and God bless you.”

McDaniel garnered criticism for portraying maid Mammy in Gone With The Wind, which has since received a contextual disclaimer.

“I would rather make $700 a week playing a maid than earn $7 a day being one,” McDaniel said in response to the backlash.

McDaniel died of breast cancer in 1952 age 59.

Additional sources • ABC News

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