NEW YORK — Hattie McDaniel’s best supporting actress Oscar in 1939 for “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 half a 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 Pictures Arts and Sciences has created a replacement of McDaniel’s legendary Academy Award that it’s gifting to Howard University. Upon her death in 1952, McDaniel bequeathed her Oscar to Howard University where it was displayed at the drama department until the late ’60s.
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 Washington D.C. university campus.
“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. “This momentous occasion will celebrate Hattie McDaniel’s remarkable craft and historic win.”
McDaniel’s award was a plaque, not a statuette, as all supporting acting winners received from 1936 to 1942. During the 12th Academy Awards, McDaniel was seated at a segregated table on the far side of the room at the Ambassador Hotel.
“I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry,” McDaniel said 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.