• Motto
  • movies

First Black Actress to Win an Oscar: ‘I Sincerely Hope I Shall Always Be a Credit to My Race’

2 minute read

Hattie McDaniel made history 76 years ago Monday when she became the first black actress to win an Academy Award.

The late trailblazing cinema star, who took home an Oscar for her performance as the tough Mammy in Gone With the Wind, wiped away tears as she accepted the prize for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1940. “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,” she said.

“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,” she added. “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.”

McDaniel—who had to sit at a table in the back of the ceremony, according to The Associated Press—became emotional as she left the stage. The daughter of two former slaves, she died from breast cancer in 1952 at the age of 57, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com