So...Where's Hattie McDaniel's Oscar?

Last known whereabouts: Howard University's theater department.


Hattie McDaniel's historic Oscar is nowhere to be found despite being gifted to the Howard University theater department:

"It's a never-ending mystery," says Tom Gregory, a Hollywood memorabilia collector. "Where is it? It's really an unbelievable story."

McDaniel was named best supporting actress in 1940 for playing the servant Mammy in "Gone With the Wind," a performance that earned praise even as McDaniel was criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes.

When she died of breast cancer in 1952, McDaniel bequeathed her Oscar to Howard's drama department, which had honored the pioneering actress with a luncheon after her win. (McDaniel had no academic affiliation with the school.)

Howard archivists say there's no official record that the university ever received the award, which was a plaque, not one of the iconic Oscar statuettes. (Supporting actor and actress winners didn't get statuettes until 1943.) But former students vividly recall seeing it in the school's fine-arts building, Childers Hall.

Charles "Buddy" Butler, a theater major who graduated from Howard in 1968, says he saw the plaque displayed in a glass-enclosed case in Childers's green room. The university's drama chairman at the time, Owen Dodson, "was so proud of having it at Howard," says Butler, who now teaches theater at San Jose State University in California. "Dodson talked about it as something we, as African American students, could aspire to."

Sometime after Butler graduated, though, McDaniel's award vanished. Gone, as it were, with the wind.