In 1940, Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in "Gone With the Wind." The win thrust McDaniel into the history books as the first African-American to win an Oscar, but even when she won, she was still fighting for recognition in racially segregated America.
Dangerous Minds explains the context surrounding McDaniel's historic win.
When Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta in 1939, all of the black actors were barred from attending. Producer David O. Selznick asked that an exception be made for Hattie McDaniel, but MGM advised him not to because of Georgia’s segregation laws. Clark Gable threatened to boycott the Atlanta premiere unless McDaniel was permitted to attend, but McDaniel herself convinced him to go.
There is a cut between Fay Bainter’s presentation of the award and McDaniel’s acceptance: This was the part where she had to walk up to the podium from her segregated table in the back: Incredibly, even in Los Angeles, McDaniel and her date were required to sit at a segregated table for two, apart from her Gone with the Wind colleagues. Regardless, McDaniel delivers one of the most poignant speeches in Oscar history. In 2006, she was honored with a United States postage stamp.
Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster