Tuesday 16 April 2024


Oscar's First Black Winner Accepted Her Honor in a Segregated 'No Blacks' Hotel

When Hattie McDaniel attended the 12th Academy Awards at the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel, she wasn't greeted as warmly as her co-stars.

McDaniel, who was one of the most famous black actors of the time, arrived at the show in a rhinestone-studded, stunning turquoise gown and wore white gardenias in her hair. She had an escort, F.P. Yober, and her white agent, William Meiklejohn, but when she entered the ceremony she was not shown to the "Gone With the Wind" table where her white co-stars sat, instead she was taken to a small table in the back for the room. The hotel, at the time, had a strict no-blacks policy and "Gone With the Winds"' producer David O. Selznick had to get the hotel to make a special exception just for her to attend.

After the Academy Awards, McDaniel had to celebrate elsewhere too, as the clubs were still separated in the 1940s.

Although McDaniel got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she still faced discrimination after her death. She was denied a spot in the Hollywood cemetery due to her race.

Sadly, it took 50 years for another black actress to take home an Oscar, when Whoopi Goldberg won for her role in "Ghost."

While many blacks were happy over McDaniel's personal victory, they also viewed it as bittersweet. They believed Gone With the Wind celebrated the slave system and condemned the forces that destroyed it. For them, the unique accolade McDaniel had won suggested that only those who did not protest Hollywood's systemic use of racial stereotypes could find work and success there.

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