In 1940, Hattie McDaniel made history as the first Black person to be nominated for and to win an Academy Award. At the 12th Academy Awards, she was presented a plaque — as was customary at the time for supporting performances — for her performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.
"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," McDaniel said onstage. "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."
Eighty-three years later, the Academy and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures have gifted Howard University a replacement of McDaniel's historic Best Actress in a Supporting Role award. The actress bequeathed her Academy Award to the university upon her death in 1952, though its whereabouts today are unknown.
"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 Director and President of the Academy Museum Jacqueline Stewart and Academy CEO Bill Kramer. "This momentous occasion will celebrate Hattie McDaniel's remarkable craft and historic win."
On Monday, Howard University hosted the "Hattie's Come Home" ceremony to celebrate her life, legacy and Academy Award win, which will be housed at the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. The event included a presentation of the plaque by Stewart and Teni Melidonian, Executive Vice President of Oscars Strategy, and remarks from Phylicia Rashad, dean of said college.
"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."
The event also included a conversation, moderated by Stewart, Ph.D., 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.
"Ms. Hattie is coming home!" Rashad said.