Hattie Mcdaniels With Academy Award
Hattie Mcdaniels (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will replace actor Hattie McDaniel’s missing Best Supporting Actress Academy Award® and gift it to the Howard University Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. Howard University will host a ceremony titled “Hattie’s Come Home” at its Ira Aldridge Theater in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2023.

The ceremony will celebrate the life and legacy of McDaniel, her historic Academy Award win, and reunite her Academy Award with Howard University as she originally intended. The event will include opening remarks by Phylicia Rashad, Dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University, the performance of a medley of songs from current students and faculty of the College, and an excerpt of “Boulevard of Bold Dreams,” a play by LaDarrion Williams. Representatives of the Academy and the Academy Museum will be at the ceremony, including Jacqueline Stewart, Ph.D., Director and President of the Academy Museum, and Executive Vice President of Oscars Strategy Teni Melidonian, who will present the plaque to the university. Stewart 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; Rhea Combs, Ph.D., Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery; Kevin John Goff, filmmaker, actor and Hattie McDaniel’s great-grandnephew; Khalid Long, Ph.D., Howard University Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, author, director and dramaturg; and Rashad. The plaque’s new home will be in the 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. We are thrilled to present a replacement of Hattie McDaniel’s Academy Award to Howard University,” said Stewart and Academy CEO Bill Kramer. “This momentous occasion will celebrate Hattie McDaniel’s remarkable craft and historic win.”

“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,” said Rashad. “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!”

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. A performer on stage, radio and screen, McDaniel appeared in some 300 films throughout her career. In 1940, McDaniel made history as the first Black person to be nominated for and to win a competitive Academy Award for her supporting performance as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind (1939). At the 12th Academy Awards ceremony at the segregated Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, McDaniel and her guest were seated separately from the film’s other nominees.

McDaniel received not a statuette but a plaque, as was customary for supporting performance winners from 1936 to 1942. Though its whereabouts today are unknown, McDaniel’s award stands out in Academy history; it would be 51 years before another Black woman would win an acting Oscar®. McDaniel bequeathed 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.

McDaniel’s acceptance speech can currently be viewed in full in the museum’s Academy Awards History Gallery, and, notably, her win is recognized in the Oscars Gallery of statuettes, but through a vitrine that stands empty. Her acceptance speech, as recorded for newsreel cameras at the time, is noted below:

“Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science[s], fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests. This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of the awards for your kindness. 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. 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.”

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