Hattie McDaniel Oscar win: Gone with the Wind star became first Black Academy Award winner on this day in 1940

Gone with the Wind star Hattie McDaniel made history on February 29 1940 when she became the first Black Oscar winner
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Hattie McDaniel made history on Leap Day 1940, becoming the first Black Oscar winner, but Black people are still underrepresented in the prestigious awards show.

55 Black actors and crew members have won Oscars in the award show’s 95 year history, averaging less than one win per year. No Black director has ever won the Best Director award, and only six Black people (all of then men) have ever been nominated in the category.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

McDaniel played Mammy, a maid working for a southern white family during the American Civil War. She was nominated for an Oscar at the 12th Academy Awards, alongside four white actresses - in fact she was the only Black nominee in any category that year.

Hattie McDaniel was the fist Black Oscar nominee and winnerHattie McDaniel was the fist Black Oscar nominee and winner
Hattie McDaniel was the fist Black Oscar nominee and winner

What Oscar did Hattie McDaniel win?

Hattie McDaniel made history as the first Black person to be nominated for, and to win, an Oscar. She won the historic gong for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in the 1939 Civil War epic Gone with the Wind.

Despite her trailblazing success as an actress, McDaniel continued to face systemic racism - she was unable to attend the Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind because it was held at a whites-only theatre, she was forced to sit at a segregated table at the awards ceremony where she won her Oscar, and when she died her request to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery was denied because that too was restricted to whites only. 

Additionally, in the more than 80 years since Gone with the Wind was made, McDaniel’s character has been received differently by later audiences. Many see her ‘Mammy’ role as a racist stereotype of a Black woman.

How many Black women have won Oscars?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Since Hattie McDaniel’s historic win in 1940, only nine other women have won an Academy Award. Eight of them won the award for Best Supporting Actress, they are:  Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Mo’Nique (Precious), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Viola Davis (Fences), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Ariana DeBose (West Side Story).

Only one Black woman has ever won an Oscar in the Best Actress category, she is Halle Berry, who won the gong for her performance as grieving mother Leticia Musgrove in 2001 drama Monster’s Ball.

How many Black stars are nominated at the Oscars 2024?

14 Black actors, actresses, and crew members are nominated at the awards this year, including Colman Domingo and Jeffrey Wright for Best Actor, Sterling K. Brown for Supporting Actor, Danielle Brooks and Da'Vine Joy Randolph for Supporting Actress, and Cord Jefferson and Jermaine Johnson for Best Picture.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.