The plaque given to actress Hattie McDaniel in 1940 for her legendary supporting role in the historic 1939 picture "Gone With the Wind" was the first Oscar ever given to a Black performer.
The medal was given to Howard University in Washington, D.C., after McDaniel passed away in 1952. There, it was highly valued until it vanished for no apparent reason ten years later.
Ultimately, though, Howard University's Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts received a replacement plaque from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on October 1. Known as "Hattie's Come Home," the event was a poignant remembrance of the artist's life and contributions. AMPAS senior vice president for Oscar strategy Teni Melidonian and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Jacqueline Stewart were among the attendees.
Actor Phylicia Rashad, outgoing dean of the Boseman College of Fine Arts, opened the event with a personal perspective of her own experience as a Howard student and aspiring artist. She claimed that seeing the prize in its case had personally motivated her, and she was now ecstatic that it had returned for future generations.
A selection of McDaniel's performances from "Gone With the Wind" and other movies were shown on the program, as well as a clip of her acceptance speech from the 1940 Academy Awards, where she and a visitor were seated at a separate table. The everyday hardships of the gifted performer, who starred in over 300 movies (many of which went unrecognized), were also highlighted. It is thought that she was the first Black lady to perform on radio.
"We felt it was important to include her agency, as she had done amazing work and represented a multitude of people." It emphasizes her struggles in a community of other well-known actors and performers," Combs remarked.
African American literary expert and panelist Eleanor Traylor, a graduate professor of English at Howard University, pointed out that McDaniel received backlash from the Black community due to her activities. Traylor observed that McDaniel made an effort to uphold her reputation as a credit to the film business and her race, respectively.
Presenting the replacement award, AMPAS observed that McDaniel left an enduring impression on both Academy history and the film industry as a whole, as a uniquely accomplished artist. (In the past, supporting actor winners were given a plaque instead of the customary stand-alone Oscar trophy.)
According to the Academy, "her perseverance in the face of adversity throughout her life and career, including the impact of racial segregation on the night of her Academy Award win, is truly remarkable." "She has left a lasting impression on audiences with her iconic performances, and her contributions both on and off screen have paved the way for those who have followed in her footsteps."