1940 February 29

Hattie McDaniel First African-American to Win Oscar – Forced to Sit at Segregated Table

 

African-American actress Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress on this day for her role as Mammy in the classic film Gone With the Wind. Her acceptance speech acknowledged the racial significance of her winning the Oscar. At the awards ceremony at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, however, she was forced to sit in the back of the room at a separate table from the white attendees.

The first African American male to win a best actor Academy Award was Sidney Poitier in 1963 for Lilies of the Field. An African American male did not win the best actor award for another 38 years: Denzel Washington for Training Day.

An African American woman did not win the Best Acretss award until 2001 when Halle Berry won for her performance in Monster’s Ball, 62 years after Hattie McDaniel won.

Watch Hattie McDaniel accepting the Oscar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7t4pTNZshA

Read: Jill Watts, Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood (2005)

Watch a short biography of McDaniel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI3zsRTgYHE

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