The evening of the Academy Awards in 1940, the Los Angeles Times broke an embargo and published the names of the winners. Before the ceremony began, the secret was out: Hattie McDaniel, who portrayed Mammy in “Gone With the Wind,” would receive best supporting actress, the first African-American to win an Oscar.
McDaniel donned a royal blue evening gown to attend the awards at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel, with her signature magnolias pinned into her hair.
The audience of almost 1,700 Hollywood elites applauded when she walked in the room.
Then Hattie and her handsome escort were shown to their seats for the evening — at a segregated table.
So it went for Wichita-born Hattie McDaniel, a black woman in white Hollywood. She entered soundstages through the back door and took her meals at separate tables, and when reviewers deigned to give her ink, they wrote about her “great mahogany shining face” rather than her acting ability.
Jesse Barnes wants visitors to the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center to know that. So he brought an exhibit from the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita, where his sister, Prisca Barnes, is the executive director.
Kansas City is the first place the exhibit has been shown outside of Wichita.
With people like Oscar-winning Mo’Nique wanting to make movies about her, McDaniel has “really become a rediscovered figure in recent years,” says Barnes, executive director of the cultural center since February 2011.
Read the complete story at kansascity.com