Hattie McDaniel – (Actress)

1947 Academy Awards

Wonderful Smith appears with Hattie McDaniel, center, and ABC commentator Frances Scully at the 1947 Academy Awards.

Wonderful Smith appears with Hattie McDaniel, center, and ABC commentator Frances Scully at the 1947 Academy Awards. 

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: 

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 for one of the awards, for your kindness.  It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future.  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.

– Hattie McDaniel’s Acceptance Speech delivered on January 29, 1940, at the 12th Annual Academy Awards

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McDaniel posed with her plaque for Best Supporting Role by an Actress, given at the 12th Annual Banquet of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (BETTMANN / Getty Images)


Hoping to inspire the Black people of future generations, the actress asked that her Oscar plaque be donated to Howard University, the prestigious college in Washington D.C.  Because of her outstanding debts, however, the IRS initially seized the award as payment. Though the award eventually made it to its rightful home, the plaque went missing in the 1960s or 1970s, never to be seen again.


Hattie McDaniel was a very positive woman. During World War II Hattie McDaniel was a major part of one of four African-American Greek-letter sororities in the United States at that particular time,Sigma Gamma Rho. McDaniel was very active in performing community service. She once teamed with actor Clarence Muse to broadcast on the radio in order to raise funds for Red Cross relief programs for Americans, who had been displaced by devastating floods.

 2203 S. Harvard Blvd in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles sits the former home of Academy Award-winning actress Hattie McDaniel.

Her house was designed by local architect Lester S. Moore in 1911.

Whites wanted Miss McDaniel out and sued her stating restriction covenants say Whites only are allowed to purchase homes in the area. Superior Judge Thurmond Clarke decided to visit the disputed ground—popularly known as Sugar Hill.

The next morning Judge Clarke threw the case out of court. His reason: “It is time that members of the Negro race are accorded, without reservations or evasions, the full rights guaranteed them under the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Judges have been avoiding the real issue too long.”

Louise Beavers and Ethel Waters were able to save their homes in West Adams because of this action as well.

There are 17 rooms in all, a large living room, dining room, drawing room, den, butler’s pantry, kitchen, service porch, library, and four bedrooms. It was decorated with a Chinese theme. Every year she would hold a big party and many of the legends of Hollywood attended – including Rhett Butler… Clark Gable.


The Thrill of Sugar Hill

Black entertainers not only revived West Adams—they challenged racist covenants and laid the groundwork for the Fair Housing Act


“Nobody threw a party like Hattie McDaniel. In her white and green Mediterranean mansion high atop the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sugar Hill, McDaniel, dressed in the latest fashion, hosted evening salons that brought together some of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century.

“The best of black show business performed within the walls of 2203 South Harvard,” McDaniel’s biographer Jill Watts writes. “Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Count Basie all played there. Ethel Waters sang and Butterfly McQueen did dramatic recitations. On many evenings, McDaniel herself joined in. It was private and intimate, but it was also independent and unfettered, free of white interference.”




McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to the radio industry at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first Black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.mcdaniel_hattie_stamp_med

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 9: A sheet of the new, 39-cent postage stamps of Hattie McDaniel is on the wall of the Theatre Arts Department at Howard University on April 9, 2010. (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images)


Toward the end of her life, McDaniel became ill from breast cancer. She began to parcel out various items of her worldly goods. The plaque went on display at the Howard University fine arts complex. Then it disappeared.  Ms. McDaniel’s Oscar has been missing for some 40 years. She presented this Oscar to Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Hattie McDaniel died October 25, 1952, in Woodland Hills, California. Ms. McDaniel, a professional singer-songwriter, comedian, stage actress, radio performer, and television star, was the first Black woman to sing on the radio in America.  She appeared in over 300 films. Unfortunately, she was only credited for 80 of the 300 films. She gained the respect of the show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.

“In her will, Hattie McDaniel wrote: “I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses. I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery..but they wouldn’t accept her because she was Black…her 2nd choice was Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, where she lies today.”



Fay Bainter presenting Hattie McDaniel with the Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress for her performance

in “Gone With The Wind” at the 12th Academy Awards® in 1940.

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