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Podcasts The Academy Museum Podcast
1940: A Credit To My Race

Jacqueline Stewart 0:00

For many film fans, there is one year at the Oscars that stands head and shoulders above the rest. That year is 1940.

[Warner Bros. Newsreel music - fade under]

This is the ceremony that recognized films released in 1939, a competition between some of the most accomplished and enduring films of all time. Turner Classic Movies legend Robert Osborne described it this way: "The calendar year of 1939 produced probably more bona fide great entertainments and classics than any similar period in moviemaking annals."

Warner Bros. Newsreel Announcer 0:36

[WB Newsreel soundbite] 1939... And now we prepare our vote for the past year. Already, more than 12,000 votes have been received, votes by artists and artisans, stars and technicians alike.

Jacqueline Stewart 0:47

The films that won awards that night included The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, and with a record-setting eight wins in competitive categories, including Best Picture, Gone With the Wind. That led to this joke from Bob Hope, the host that night, about the film's producer.

Bob Hope 1:07

[Academy Awards soundbite] Really I think this is a wonderful thing, a benefit like this for David Selznick, and I want to tell you... [audience laughs]

Jacqueline Stewart 1:19

[original music] At the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, we highlight awards for 20 significant Oscar wins in our "Academy Awards History" gallery, a stunning display of gleaming Oscar statuettes. But one win, from the 1940 Oscars, is represented by an empty case.

Jill Watts 1:38

Now, where is it? Some people say it's in a warehouse someplace. Other people still are convinced that it was, it was stolen.

Jacqueline Stewart 1:48

That's historian Jill Watts, author of "Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood."

Jill Watts 1:55

It's probably one of the most historic Academy Awards ever presented, and it disappeared. [original music out]

Jacqueline Stewart 2:02

For her powerhouse performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person ever nominated for an Academy Award, and the first to win. At the ceremony, Fay Bainter, the Best Supporting Actress winner from the previous year, presented the award.

Fay Bainter 2:19

[Academy Awards soundbite] To me it seems more than just a plaque of gold...

Jacqueline Stewart 2:24

In those early years, supporting actors were awarded plaques instead of statuettes.

Fay Bainter 2:28

[Academy Awards soundbite] It opens the doors of this room, moves back the walls, and enables us to embrace the whole of America. An America that we love, an America that almost alone in the world today recognizes and pays tribute to those who give it their best, regardless of creed, race or color.

Jacqueline Stewart 2:51

Hattie McDaniel's win wasn't a total surprise. On the night of the 1940 Oscars, the LA Times broke the embargo on revealing the winners with their evening edition. That's what led to the sealed envelope system that continues to this day. But her win was in no way a given. First, she had to be nominated, and she advocated on her own behalf to be submitted for consideration.

Jill Watts 3:16

What's really great about her is is, that she's fearless. She shows up in Selznick's office with these clippings that are raving about her performance and says, look, [laughs] I think you need to nominate me. And there were other um, I think, other pressures on Selznick to do this. I, I think you have to contextualize the nomination and the award with the fact that the US is on the verge of entering World War Two.

Jacqueline Stewart 3:43

At the time within FDR's administration, there were concerns that racial division could hamper the war effort, and that Black Americans might not be on board if the country went to war.

Jill Watts 3:55

So there's a strong unity message that's being circulated in 1940. There's a, a sense that across the board, if you could uplift and acknowledge African American accomplishments throughout the nation, that you're preparing the nation for what's to come.

Fay Bainter 4:11

[Academy Awards soundbite] It is with the knowledge that this entire nation will stand and salute the presentation of this plaque, that I present the Academy Award for the best performance of an actress in a supporting role during 1939 to Hattie McDaniel. [applause]

Jacqueline Stewart 4:39

[Academy Museum theme music] I'm Jacqueline Stewart. Welcome to the Academy Museum podcast. This is our first season: And the Oscar Goes To... In each episode, we'll revisit a specific Oscar ceremony. In this episode - the 1940 Academy Awards. We'll explore the significance of Hattie McDaniel's Oscar win, the controversy surrounding the role she won for, and how her Oscar went missing. [end theme music]

[Gone With the Wind music] Even before production began on Gone With the Wind in 1938, the very idea of bringing it to the screen was thrilling to some, and controversial to others. The screenplay was based on the best selling novel by Margaret Mitchell, about a spoiled daughter of a plantation owner during the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. The book and film include racist depictions and a revisionist, nostalgic portrayal of the antebellum South.

Jill Watts 5:44

Gone With the Wind, when it's announced, it it creates a lot of concern, for good reason in the Black community that it's going to be another Birth of a Nation.

Jacqueline Stewart 5:52

Again, here's historian Jill Watts.

Jill Watts 5:54

Birth of a Nation unleashed the Klan and you know, shortly following, lynchings.

Jacqueline Stewart 5:58

The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, directed by DW Griffith was the first American blockbuster. It's also a racist propaganda film, celebrating the Confederate cause and rise of the Ku Klux Klan to suppress Black citizenship after slavery.

Jill Watts 6:17

It's not an exaggeration to say that that movie had serious and deadly consequences and there was concern that Gone With the Wind would do exactly the same. But on the other hand, there are people within Hollywood who say, Well, we can handle this, and we can create a treatment that is um sensitive. And that's to some degree, not at all the objective, [laughing] the idea is to get it onto the screen. So um, for Black actresses, though, it would be a big role, and most of the major Black actresses in Hollywood are seeking that role.

Jacqueline Stewart 6:48

That of course, included Hattie McDaniel. She had appeared in nearly 70 films, primarily as maids before Gone With the Wind. But before she was an actress in Hollywood, she was a little girl in Kansas.

Jill Watts 7:01

[old Americana music] She was born in Wichita in 1893. To uh two parents who had escaped enslavement during the Civil War. They had left their masters in the midst of the heat of the Civil War. And her father had volunteered and and joined up with the Union army to fight against the very people who had held him in bondage. And that, that took a lot of bravery. So she comes from a very proud and um, assertive family. And, and she's raised that way. She's raised to be proud and she's raised to be assertive. She's trained by her mother to follow in her footsteps to become a domestic, and that's seen as practical. But what leads her into entertainment are her older siblings who have forged a path in entertainment and as just a child, they take her out along with them as they go to perform. Then she decides, according to her interviews very early on, that she wants to become a performer. She and her sister put together an all female troupe that's called an all female minstrel troupe. And they produce these amazing, outlandish comedies, but embedded within the comedy is a serious critique of American racism. She satirizes the mammy image that she's later on gonna go on to play in Gone With the Wind. And that's really important when we think about her because she starts out as somebody who rejects this. She performs just after the turn of the century, in the teens, in white face. That's regarded as radical, where she's interrogating white society and rejecting um white domination by uh mocking and making fun of those very white characters on the stage. So we don't see Hattie McDaniel as this radical, you know, young performer that I think, performers, when we see them, we see them at that moment when they become famous. We just see this slice. And to really understand them, we have to see this broad panorama of their lives as they saw themselves and as their performance styles evolve.

Jacqueline Stewart 9:06

[to Kevin John Goff] What's your sense of how she felt about the role of Mammy, in Gone With the Wind? Her process of of taking that role?

Kevin John Goff 9:13

I think she, she, she did what she could to bring humanity to it.

Jacqueline Stewart 9:19

This is Kevin John Goff, Hattie McDaniel's great-grandnephew. He heads up her estate.

Kevin John Goff 9:24

That was the biggest thing that was happening in Hollywood at the time as far as cinema. And this was something that everyone was waiting on. And she was going to be a part of, she was in, she was going to be in this film. So she knew it was a big deal. And, I believe she saw it as an opportunity. She said, You know what, if I can deliver in a profound and an impactful way, this could mean a great deal, not just for the film, and not just for her, but the next generation.

Jill Watts 9:59

She doesn't talk about modeling her character after the novel's character, she talks about modeling her character after Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. So on one hand, you could say, well, she's just trying to defend herself and shield herself. But I actually think she's, like I said, well aware of the history. And she is indeed attempting to do that within these confines that she has to operate.

Jacqueline Stewart 10:22

Let's talk about what the environment on the set was like, the experience of making the film for Hattie McDaniel. And for the other Black actors who are in the film. There was a real concern, among other things, about using the N word during filming. Could you talk about that tension that arose on the set?

Jill Watts 10:42

The set of Gone With the Wind isn't any different than the other white sets in Hollywood. Hollywood, LA, is Jim crowed. It's not in a way um, what you say legally institutionalized, it's de facto Jim Crow that exists throughout the city. And then the industry is just a reflection of that. It's run by white people. If you were filming at the studio, you couldn't eat at the commissary. You weren't welcome to eat at the commissary. Early on in the filming of Gone With the Wind, somebody had tacked up on bathrooms, whites only, blacks only. And so the Black cast members got together and protested that. And you see in other places where black cast members have pressured uh Selznick and others to to make these changes, and that specifically has to do with that abhorrent racial slur. Selznick was determined to include it in the film and in the script. And it remained in the script all the way up to the last minute, when Hattie McDaniel had been identified to utter that word on the screen. Now, there had been numerous attempts by Selznick to try to argue that he could use this because it was historically representative. And if it was, if the word was used by Black cast members that it would be okay. And over and over again, he'd been told no, that there isn't any way to use this. And she never admits to this, but what's telling is it's in the script all the way up till the day, she has to speak it. And then it's gone. And the Black press reported that it was her who said, I will not speak this word on the screen. So you you see, even though she's operating within this really rigid structure of Hollywood racism, she she's able, at least in that case, to fight for something.

Jacqueline Stewart 12:25

Yeah. And that's an incredibly brave thing to do in an environment where you're treated as though you you're replaceable. That's an extraordinary stand that she took at a critical moment. [laughs] It's incredible.

Jill Watts 12:38

Right, and they could have just let her go. But I actually think she knew at that point, it was so far into production, Gone With the Wind was such chaos, that it was impossible [original music] to let her go.

Jacqueline Stewart 12:53

Off screen and off set, McDaniel pushed for change in more overt ways. When she bought a home in the West Adams neighborhood of LA, and her white neighbors tried to push her and other Black homeowners out, she fought a legal battle against racially restrictive covenants, and won. But that didn't mean that the discrimination and intimidation she faced were over. Toward the end of McDaniel's life, when she bought another home nearby, a cross was reportedly burned on her lawn.

[to Jill Watts] It seems really important to continue to understand how she worked as an activist, and to think about the relationship [original music out] between her activism off screen and the work that she did on screen. And I think the Academy Award Ceremony is a really important space in between, because this is another attempt [laughs] to move into white space, right, like to be in the room, to be a part of this uh, this industry. And I would love to hear you talk about that night. Because there again, there are questions about how Hollywood could treat Black people in general that she was really experiencing, you know, on the front lines.

Jill Watts 14:07

I think there again, you'd find no Black performer had been invited to the Academy Awards beforehand. None, and her nomination forced that to be an issue. And so it would be impossible in a way not to include her. However, the Ambassador didn't welcome Black people. At the Ambassador, if you were Black you could work at the Ambassador but you couldn't go you couldn't go to the Coconut Grove. That that was unheard of. So that forced that issue. And so she was included and when she enters the room actually, I don't know if people know this or remember it. When she entered the room, she received applause. People applauded her as she came in, in part because they knew she'd won. [JW and JS laughing] So they applauded her as she came in, but she was escorted to a table. You could see in the photos- at the far end of the room. It was kind of situated so it wasn't that far from the stage, but it's the far absolute periphery of the room. So she and her escort are seated there with, presumably her agent, and kept separate. Everybody else in Gone With the Wind is seated together kind of in the center with Selznick, and she's seated way off. So it's this halfway acceptance. So before her name is called, she was brought up to the table where everybody else was seated. So she she moved from that periphery into that center of the room. But that's, isn't it so symbolic that she's seated on the periphery and everybody else is in the center. Such a message about what Hollywood was about, at that time.

Hattie McDaniel 15:42

[Academy Awards soundbite] Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests.

Jacqueline Stewart 15:49

This is Hattie McDaniel's acceptance speech. It's included in the Academy Awards history gallery at the museum.

Hattie McDaniel 15:55

[Academy Awards soundbite] [with emotion in her voice] This is one of the happiest moments of my life. And I want to thank each one of you, who had a part in selecting me for one of the awards. For your kindness, it has made me feel very, very humble. And I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race, and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full, to tell you just how I feel. And may I say thank you, and God bless you. [applause]

Jacqueline Stewart 16:31

As someone who has done such extensive research on Hattie McDaniel, I would just appreciate you sharing what you think she was thinking and feeling as, as she was receiving this award. Because there are so many layers of her experience that night, of the years of work that she had done, all the efforts that she had made to be recognized, it must have been such a complex moment for her.

Jill Watts 16:58

I think it was because she had constantly reconciled her ambitions to be successful in Hollywood with uh um, her commitment to the Black community. So in that speech, when she says, I hope to be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry, she captures those two competing, and they're competing commitments that she has, if you think about it's very interesting, what I think is so telling about that speech is, that's not the speech that had been written for her by by the studio, she had the speech in her hand, and she left it at the table when she came up. And the speech she gave had been written for her by a Black woman by Ruby Berkeley, Goodwin, who she had hired as her publicist. So and I think it's a very careful speech. But I think it's an interesting, where she says, I I, I hope to be a credit to both these, which indicates to me that she's thinking ahead in the future. I think her, in that moment of winning that Oscar, she thinks that this is opening a door, and it will open a door to better roles. Y- you see it in her interviews subsequently, when people are are are pushing her on the idea of the mammy stereotype, and that Gone With the Wind is is disparaging, and and she talks about, yes, but things are going to change. She's very hopeful with that win.

Jacqueline Stewart 18:16

But of course, things don't shift in the ways that she wanted for her or for other Black women in Hollywood.

Jill Watts 18:27

No, no.

Jacqueline Stewart 18:28

Did she express frustration, that after Gone With the Wind, it really was for her, going back to the same kinds of roles she had been playing before?

Jill Watts 18:40

You know, I don't think publicly she did. But you can see in her own life, the frustration. If you look into her personal life, she has subsequently two failed marriages, but she gets married uh not too long afterward and, and that marriage is is difficult and rough. And I think she's going through a lot of emotional issues associated with not really being able to actualize what she hoped for, which is better roles. Then Selznick puts her under contract and then kind of controls her career and if you're under contract to somebody like Selznick and then Warner's, you don't have a lot of say over your career or what you do. You find her, the number of roles she does really significantly drastically decline after Gone With the Wind. And she really doesn't get another substantial part like she she plays in Gone with the Wind. I'd like to mention the film she did called In This Our Life with Bette Davis, which I think was the role that she'd been hoping for.

[music from In This Our Life] That film, which is based on a play was an attempt to um look at American race relations. I don't think people think of it, they think of it as what it came out as, which was just like a romantic drama, woman's film of the War era. But there she plays a very small role where she plays the mother of a a Black law student who's unjustly accused of murder and falsely arrested, and Olivia de Havilland is in this film.

Olivia de Havilland 20:18

[soundbite from In This Our Life] [a woman speaks] Minerva, I want you to tell me exactly what happened.

Jill Watts 20:21

And when Olivia de Havilland's character says, Well, why didn't he just say that he was innocent? Why didn't he say something? Hattie McDaniel's character, uh Minerva says, They won't listen to him.

Hattie McDaniel 20:32

[film soundbite continues] Police just come and took him off. He tried to tell 'em, but they don't listen to no colored boy.

Jill Watts 20:40

She delivers such a volatile kind of indictment of the American justice system. And she does it in this very quiet way. But it was censored. It was censored in southern theaters. It was censored in urban areas. And it wasn't allowed to be distributed internationally because it was considered too volatile. It exposed American race relations for what they were during the war. So it's so unfortunate, because, in a way, Hattie McDaniel, who we remember, for playing these degrading stereotypes becomes the first Black performer to really [original music begins] utter an indictment against American racism in the American screen.

Jacqueline Stewart 21:21

Coming up, we'll hear from Mo'Nique and Whoopi Goldberg about what Hattie McDaniel means to them, and the parallels between her experiences in Hollywood and theirs. And later, what happened to Hattie McDaniel's Oscar? [original music out]

Mo'Nique 21:51

Hattie McDaniel, for me, baby, is an angel.

Jacqueline Stewart 21:55

That's actress and comedian Mo'Nique. She won a best supporting actress Oscar in 2010, becoming the fifth Black woman to win an Academy Award - 70 years after Hattie McDaniel. She wore white gardenias in her hair that night, just as McDaniel had in 1940, channeling her spirit.

Mo'Nique 22:14

She walked me through her life, the good and the bad, the flaws, the mistakes. And she said, Mo'Nique, you have a choice. I'm showing you what it looks like when you choose this career over everything else. You leave lonely. You leave sick. You leave unloved. I'm showing you what it looks like, baby. I'm showing you what it looks like when you give Hollywood everything. And they give you nothing back. I'm showing you what it looks like when you tell your husband the business comes first. Everything else comes behind that. So Hattie McDaniel, for me is the one that says let me show you this, baby. Let me show you this journey. Let me show you this walk. See, I know they set her at the table back by the kitchen. The night of the award. I know they only walked her up there when the camera was on them... Understanding that when she won and she said, 'It felt like when I won, I did something wrong.' Because the the word was when you win an Oscar, baby this is, you have won the highest award in the world in acting, not just in America, in the world. And nothing changed. As a matter of fact, it got worse, because they had to let this Black woman know. We don't want you to think you're special now. We don't want you to think you are important now. So what she means to me is stand in your position, unwavering and unflinching because there's going to be a little girl that's gonna come after you like you came after me. So I love that woman. I have a picture of her up in my closet that is an eight by 10. Right. It's my little shrine of of the sisters that are special - Hattie McDaniel and my grandmother, right? And listen, Jacqueline, when I show off too much, both 'o they looks change. [JS laughing] I swear to God, I be like they look to be looking different on me, baby. I be like ok I'm a do it right! I'm a do it right! But I um, I look, I, I see her every day with my grandmother. That's how much that woman means to me.

Jacqueline Stewart 24:29

[original music] Whoopi Goldberg was only the second Black woman ever to win an Academy Award after Hattie McDaniel. And she's thought a lot about Hattie's words on the night she won.

Whoopi Goldberg 24:41

She says I, I promise to be a credit to my race. Promise to make y'all comfortable, basically. So you don't have to worry about me trying to come and take your job. But I won this fair and square. [laughing] I won this fair and square. It's not like a whole lot of Black people got together and voted me in. Y'all did this... And I, I think she was wonderful in the part. There are so many moments that she has that you kind of go, come on now she's killing this. She is killing it. When she gets up behind Scarlett and says, Look at ya... Look at ya waiting for him like a spider!

Vivien Leigh 25:24

[Gone With the Wind soundbite] What trouble are you talkin' about?

Hattie McDaniel 25:25

[Gone With the Wind soundbite] You know what trouble I was talkin' about. I was talkin' about Mr. Ashley Wilkes. He'll be coming to Atlanta when he gets his leave, and you settin' there waitin' for him just like a spider.

Whoopi Goldberg 25:34

It's just, as a character actor it's wonderful. And she's brilliant in the part. She just is.

Jacqueline Stewart 25:41

In 2001, Whoopi narrated an Emmy-winning documentary called Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel.

Whoopi Goldberg 25:50

It was great to be able to talk about this woman and to navigate through her eyes in this doc, just what it took to be her. People don't realize that it really, it takes a a lot because you're carrying everybody's dreams and you're carrying everybody's hopes. And, you know, she always knew she was an actress. She knew what she wanted to be. She came from folks who said if this is what you want to do, and she's like, Yeah, I'm, I'm going to do it. You know, this is what I want to do. I'm going out there. And she did it. You know, she did it. And that smile. You know, that smile! I, I loved her.

Jacqueline Stewart 26:36

Whoopi Goldberg's Oscar win for best supporting actress came in 1991 for her role in Ghost.

Whoopi Goldberg 26:43

A very different night, then. When Hattie was sitting to the side by herself.

Jacqueline Stewart 26:50

Did you have her on your mind that night?

Whoopi Goldberg 26:51

Oh yeah. Somebody gave me a a duplication of the pin she was wearing. And so they said, it's not gonna go on the dress you have on tonight, but here. And I was kind of knocked out.

Jacqueline Stewart 27:11

I think we often think that actors of her generation had to take certain types of roles. They were so limited. And but then of course, actors of subsequent generations have also been limited in the roles that they are offered, are able to, to play. How do you think about the relationship between her career and yours?

Whoopi Goldberg 27:29

I think it is parallel and yet not. Because I had, I was, I was brought in by the hand of two monster directors, Mike Nichols and Steven Spielberg - walked, literally walked me in the room. I don't know if Hattie had that. And so I think the, the fee for having been brought in that way was people not believing in my ability, the way that I believed in my ability. And so when I'd say, Oh, I could do that, can I be in that? They'd say, Well, no, no, no. You know, so I, I did a lot of movies that other people decided not to do, like Burglar was supposed to be Bruce Willis. You know, Shelley Long was supposed to do Jumpin' Jack Flash. So I went and found things that I liked. And things that were written for me, you know, were written by folks who wanted to pay homage to the women that raised them. So I had a a very eclectic, [laughs] interesting, uh career, and I, it never, I always took the attitude that that uh Hattie took. It's all fine, maids are fine, but it's, for me, it's better to play one than to be one. Not meaning that there's anything wrong with being a maid, but don't assume that that's all I can do. And I would say to people, listen, this lady wrote this for me because she loved her her the lady that kept her sane when she was a little girl and her parents split up. You know, I can't help it that they were smart enough to have a woman of color take care of their child. You know but I'm gonna pay homage to her. She did a great job. You know, people would say, well, how can you play that? It's like, how can I not? You got something for me to do? And that question always sort of stops people with their b.s. It's like, have you written some for me that I could do instead of this? Oh, you didn't? [original music begins] Okay, well, I'm gonna take this job then.

Jacqueline Stewart 29:57

And as a member of the inclusion advisory committee for the Academy Museum, Whoopi played a critical role in conversations about how to recognize McDaniel's historic win at the museum, even if we didn't have her award, and even if her win was for a role that many consider controversial.

Whoopi Goldberg 30:14

A great many of our movies are inhabited by controversial characters, you know, and Gone With the Wind is no different. What makes Gone With the Wind so special is that Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award over all these white women.

Jacqueline Stewart 30:36

We decided to leave the case for her award in the Academy Museum empty. A label by the glass case notes that the win should be there, because McDaniel's win stands out as a landmark in Academy history. [original music out]

[to Jill Watts] Do we know what her wishes were for her, uh her plaque? How she wanted people to be able to see it after she died? What were her plans for her award?

Jill Watts 31:02

In her will, she wills the award to Howard University's Theatre Arts Department.

Jacqueline Stewart 31:07

This is Jill Watts again.

Jill Watts 31:09

They had um celebrated her and acknowledged her and in turn, she had willed it there in hopes I think that it would stand as inspiration for theater arts students in the future. So at the time when I wrote the book, um the dominant idea was is that during the student protests at Howard in the late 1960s, it had been destroyed because of its symbolic link to the stereotypes. But a woman named Berlet Carter, who's an attorney, who's a professor emeritus at George Washington law school, and Berlet decided to pursue this and she followed legally the chain of custody of the award. And what was so important about what Berlet found was is that upon Hattie McDaniel's death, she was in such debt that her personal effects were warehoused to be auctioned off to pay those debts. And in the inventory for the auction, the award is valued at zero. At zero. It's probably one of the most historic Academy Awards ever presented, and it was valued at her death at zero. And eventually, because it was valued at zero, wasn't auctioned off, and it was sent to Howard, and Howard displayed it, and the department moved, and it disappeared with the move.

Jacqueline Stewart 32:33

Wow. It's such a strange and like troubling mystery, the whereabouts of this award. And you know, in our Academy Awards history gallery at the museum, we have this empty display case, to encourage people to think about her win, to think about what it means that the award is missing and what that says about the experiences that she had, that other Black performers had in Hollywood. But I know for many visitors, it's deeply troubling to see it. It's, it almost seems, some people recognize it for the gesture that we intend for it to be. But for others, I think it just increases the sense of her misrepresentation and her exclusion. It's it's it's a painful history, when we think about her experience.

Jill Watts 33:20

Right, it's a, it's a fraught history, when you think about it. She suffers from this constant erasure. During the course of her career, the erasure of who she really was, the struggle to put forward her performance, but see it erased.

Jacqueline Stewart 33:35

Kevin John Goff is among those who find it troubling to see the empty case in the museum, where his great grand aunt's Oscar should be. He says he'd like to see it replaced.

Kevin John Goff 33:46

I had a conversation with some people at the Academy, and they talked about, this was something that they were thinking about doing. And they asked for my opinion, and that's it. I said, well, it's not the way I would handle it [laughing]. But you know, that's, that's not my call. And the reason why I say that is, I mean, having a conversation in the spotlight - that's good. Then the other side of that I think about, she lost so much in life already. So I guess my my feeling is, I kind of think she's had enough of things being missing.

Jacqueline Stewart 34:34

[original music begins] Goff created a website, Hattie McDaniel.com, to help carry on her legacy. And he's working on a docu-series about her life.

Kevin John Goff 34:47

It's really more about a woman who went through a lot in that era, and women go through a lot in this era, and being recognized in a way that really gives full acknowledgement. [original music out]

Jacqueline Stewart 35:12

[Academy Museum theme music] The Academy Museum podcast is written and hosted by me, Jacqueline Stewart. This episode was produced by Monica Bushman. The Academy Museum podcast team includes Kimberly Stevens, Victoria Alejandro and Antonia Cereijido. The show is a production of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in collaboration with LAist Studios. Mixing and original music by E. Scott Kelly. Our theme music was composed by Nicolas Britell. Antonia Cereijido and Leo G are the Executive Producers for LAist Studios. Our podcast website LAist.com/podcast is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios. The Academy Museum marketing team created our branding. Thanks to the team at the Academy Museum, including Sean Anderson, Peter Castro, Stephanie Sykes and Matt Young and to our Academy colleagues, Randy Haberkamp and Claire Lockhart. Thanks also to the team at LAist Studios, including Taylor Coffman, Sabir Brara, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, Andy Orozco, Michael Cosentino and Leo G. Academy Museum digital engagement platforms including this podcast are sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. [theme music out]