After turning into the primary Black individual to win an Academy Award, in 1940, Hattie McDaniel called the plaque she received a cherished beacon for all that could possibly be achieved.
McDaniel had earned the award for her portrayal of Mammy, an agreeable slave on the whim of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” a film that arrived as a cinematic triumph however has since been rebuked for its blind eye towards slavery.
Earlier than dying in 1952, McDaniel deflected the criticism she obtained for taking many stereotypical roles all through her profession.
“I’d relatively play a maid than be one,” she would say, envisioning that her work would open higher doorways for future Black actors. She additionally had an everlasting resting spot in thoughts for that beacon, bequeathing the Oscar plaque to Howard College in Washington.
However for about 50 years, McDaniel’s plaque has been lacking, a cinematic void that the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences is now filling. The college will obtain a substitute plaque this weekend in a ceremony titled “Hattie’s Come Dwelling.”
“It’s one hundred pc overdue,” mentioned Jill Watts, the writer of “Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood.” “It was so significant traditionally as an award. Not simply within the historical past of movie, but additionally inside American historical past and it was significant to her personally. She could be completely delighted to know that it’s going house to the place she needed it to be.”
Kevin Goff, McDaniel’s great-grandnephew, mentioned that his father began petitioning for a substitute plaque within the Nineties, and that the choice would assist cement McDaniel’s legacy.
Over time, theories have circulated concerning the whereabouts of the plaque, which was given to all supporting appearing winners from 1936 to 1942 relatively than conventional Oscar statues. A spokesman for Howard College didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Goff mentioned there have been rumors that the plaque was stolen throughout student unrest about the university’s mission within the late Sixties.
“Apparently, a gentleman mentioned he had thrown it within the Potomac,” he mentioned. “Somebody mentioned possibly a drama professor took it with him. However none of it has been verified or confirmed. It’s by no means proven up on eBay. So, right here we’re 50-plus years later and nobody has a clue the place it’s or if it nonetheless does exist.”
W. Burlette Carter, a professor at George Washington College’s regulation college, wrote a paper about the missing award greater than a decade in the past. Her finest guess is that it could nonetheless be someplace at Howard, misplaced throughout a transfer by the drama division.
“That is sensible to me, having labored at a college, that once they moved the division, it obtained packed and it obtained misplaced,” Watts mentioned. “I’ve this sense that it’s most likely nonetheless someplace, tucked away in a field.”
Watts mentioned she and several other others approached the Academy about changing the Oscar following her guide’s publication in 2005. “We had been instructed no,” Watts mentioned. “Only a flat no.”
That stance has shifted. The substitute plaque will quickly reside on the Chadwick A. Boseman School of Wonderful Arts.
Jacqueline Stewart, the president of the Academy Museum of Movement Photos, and Invoice Kramer, the chief govt of the Academy, mentioned in a information launch that the upcoming ceremony would have fun McDaniel’s outstanding craft and historic win.
“Hattie McDaniel,” they mentioned, “was a groundbreaking artist who modified the course of cinema and impacted generations of performers who adopted her.”