Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 30, 1954, in Kosciusko Mississippi. she grew up with her grandmother; when she was six she went to live with her mother where she was sexually abused by relatives and friends. The National Child Protection Act signed by Bill Clinton, in 1993 was called the “Oprah Bill.” Oprah testified in favor of the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Oprah is ranked as the richest African American of the 20th century. Time Magazine has listed her in the top 100 influential people in the world. She had her own talk show called, “The Oprah Winfrey show, from 1986-2011. She was the first women to own and produce her own talk show, and not only that, she was the first African American women to do so. Oprah had a lot of “firsts” for African American women. President Barack Obama awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is known and has been called, “The Queen of all Media”, and “The Queen of DayTime TV.” In 2005 she was put in the hall of fame for the NAACP. Also in 2005 Business Week named her with the title, “The greatest black philanthropist in in American history. Oprah meet with the Anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, in 2000 and pledged to open up a school in South Africa. In 2006 at her Legends Ball, she recognized black women who had made a contribution to the civil rights movement such as, Ruby Dee, and Coretta Scott King. She was the first African American women to anchor the news in Nashville WTVF. in 1998 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award, from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Oprah read many books when she was younger, and continues to read, she also promoted reading to her fans.Toni Morrison claimed that Oprah began a reading revolution. D. T. Max in The New York Times referred to her as”the most successful pitch person in the history of publishing.”Read More Here Oprah Winfrey This website is called the Academy of Achievement established in 1961, it’s a museum of living history. Oprah’s profile is next to Rose Parks, and Coretta Scott King, famous women who influenced civil rights. Oprah being compared to these women on this virtual museum reflects the impact she has made on America, civil rights, and what it means to be a black women in the United States.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from. The ability to triumph begins always with you. Always.” Oprah
An article written for CNN by Megan Clifford discuses how Oprah has “changed the way we live.”Clifford breaks down how Oprah has done this in five main topics.
- Oprah tackled the taboo topic of weight, a controversial issue that people feel embarrassed to talk about when they are overweight. She taught society how to live the best life possible, with diet plans by professionals such as Dr.Oz.
- Oprah has been credited for giving American society the desire to read, from her book club where she listed books for her fans to read, to opening up new ideas and discussions for women.
- Oprah gives credit for her success to the civil rights moment, the movement has given her everything she transformed from a poor African- American woman to one of the richest women in America. Megan Clifford stated the following of how Oprah changed race relations in America, “Oprah opened discussions about race in America. During her first season, Oprah taped a show in Forsyth County, Georgia, where not a single black person had lived for 75 years. Her presence inspired conversation and slow change. Twenty-five years later, 7,000 African-Americans call Forsyth County home, and millions of Oprah’s diverse fans see commonalities where they once saw differences.”
- Oprah created a charity, “Oprah’s Angel Network” where the funds raised from her charity were donated to organizations to improve education, and living conditions.
- Oprah shared her own experiences, such as being sexually abused as a child to relate to her audience. People felt safe, and confident sharing with Oprah secrets from their past. She addressed many issues on her show such as abuse, addiction, and infidelity.
“You are not the product of your circumstances. You are a composite of all the things you believe, and all the places you believe you can go. Your past does not define you. You can step out of your history and create a new day for yourself. Even if the entire culture is saying, ‘You can’t.’ Even if every single possible bad thing that can happen to you does, you can keep going forward.” Oprah
Oprah did step out of history, she did go against culture stereotypes, she became a leader for women all around the world. Her ability to press forward through her own difficulties, to break down ideas about her race, and to stand as a women who is a businesswomen, successful, and kind has changed how we see black women in media. Stereotypes dated back to the antebellum period were finally being forgotten, because of women like Oprah who stood up and represented how the world should treat each other, how they should view race, and what people can do to contribute society. Black women in media can not be discussed without the “Queen of Media” Oprah Winfrey.
Farr, Cecilia Konchar. Reading Oprah: How Oprah’s Book Club Changed the Way America Reads. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.