Hattie McDaniel became the first Black Oscar winner in 1940 for her portrayal of a slave named Mammy in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind. Sadly though, when she attended the Academy Awards ceremony at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel, she wasn’t even allowed to sit with her co-stars.
McDaniel arrived at the show with an escort and her agent, William Meiklejohn, who was white. She was even dressed in a rhinestone-studded gown with white gardenias in her hair, but this still didn’t qualify her to sit at the Gone With the Wind table. Instead, she was escorted to a small table in a back room that was being used to store the Oscar award trophys.
Apparently, the hotel, like most establishments of that time, had a strict “no-blacks” policy, and a special exception had to be made for her to even attend the ceremony at all.
After being presented with the award for Best Supporting Actress, the discrimination continued. She could not even celebrate with her co-stars that night because the club they went to for the after party also did not allow Black people to enter.
McDaniel eventually did get her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but sadly after her death in 1957, she was not allowed to be buried in the Hollywood cemetery.
Even worse, another 50 years had to pass before a Black actress would win an Oscar award again. And that was when Whoopi Goldberg took home the award for her Best Supporting Actress for her 1990 film Ghost.