A recent story on TheGrio.com noted that although McDaniel won the best supporting actor Oscar for playing Mammy in “Gone With the Wind,” she sat at a segregated table during the event. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop her from delivering a classy acceptance speech when she made history with her win.
“I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry,” McDaniel stated during her acceptance speech.
The recognition was a welcome one, but McDaniel’s breakthrough performance came was a bittersweet one within the black community because of the servant role in a Civil War-era film that perpetuated racial stereotypes,
The Groin article further noted that “Despite being a well-rounded entertainer whose skills were honed on the vaudeville circuit, McDaniel and many others like her were limited in servant roles on screens.”
It would be 27 years before another African-American would claim Oscar gold. That person was Sidney Portier, who became the second African-American Oscar winner. Other Oscar-winning African Americans include Halle Barry and Denzel Washington took top acting honors in 2001 and just this past Sunday Steve McQueen, who won best picture for the first time ever for “12 Years a Slave” and Nyong’o, who took home best supporting actress honors for the same film. History was also made beyond African-Americans when Alfonso Cuaron became the first Latino to win the Oscar for best director for “Gravity.”
Despite the noteworthy moments, TheGrio’s story highlighted the very real fact that true change in some areas is slow when it comes to African-Americans, who still have a long way to go.
“Change hasn’t necessarily come as swiftly to those bestowing the honors,” the site stated. As in McDaniel’s day, Academy Award voters remain largely white and male.”