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Fri, 01.29.1954

Oprah Winfrey, Multi-Media Icon born

Oprah Winfrey

*Oprah Winfrey was born on this date in 1954. She is a Black businesswoman, actress, multi-media entrepreneur, and television talk show host.

From Kosciusko, Mississippi, Oprah Gail Winfrey was raised by her grandmother on a farm where she began learning to read aloud and gave recitations at the age of three. Between the ages of six to thirteen, she lived in Milwaukee with her mother.  Suffering abuse, she ran away and was sent to Nashville to live under her father's firm discipline. Her father (Vernon Winfrey) gave her a midnight curfew and required her to read a book and write a report each week.

She attended Tennessee State University and won the titles of Miss Black Nashville and Miss Black Tennessee while she was a freshman.  In 1971 she was the first Black woman to anchor a newscast in Nashville. Winfrey then co-hosted a morning talk show, "Baltimore Is Talking," for seven years and in 1984, came to Chicago to host "A. M. Chicago," which became "The Oprah Winfrey Show" a year and a half later. Winfrey started Harpo Productions, her TV and film production studio, and hosts "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She also received an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress in The Color Purple 1985.

As a global info-entertainer, she has carved out a new standard for media moguls and remains one of the most influential women in the world. Winfrey is a dedicated activist for children’s rights; in 1994, (then) President Clinton signed a bill into law that Winfrey had proposed to Congress, creating a nationwide database of convicted child abusers.  She founded the Family for Better Lives foundation and contributed to her alma mater, Tennessee State University.  Since 1992, Winfrey has been engaged to Stedman Graham, a public relations executive. The couple lives in Chicago, and Winfrey also has homes in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, Telluride, Colorado, Hawaii, and California.

She contributed to the publishing world by launching her “Oprah’s Book Club,” as part of her talk show. The program pushed many unknown authors to the top of the bestseller lists and gave pleasure in reading a new kind of popular importance. With the debut in 1999 of Oxygen Media, a company she co-founded that is dedicated to producing cable and Internet programming for women, Winfrey ensured her place in the forefront of the media industry and as one of the most powerful and wealthy people in show business. Her magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, debuted in April 2000.

She is one of the partners in Oxygen Media, Inc., a cable channel and interactive network presenting programming designed primarily for women. Also in 2000, Oprah's Angel Network began presenting a $100,000 "Use Your Life Award" to people who are using their lives to improve the lives of others. When Forbes magazine published its list of America's billionaires for 2003, it disclosed that Oprah Winfrey was the first Black woman to become a billionaire.

In 2018, Winfrey began canvassing door-to-door for Georgia gubernatorial Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams.  Winfrey is registered as an Independent.  In 2018, Winfrey donated $500,000 to the March for Our Lives student demonstration in favor of gun control in the United States. In early 2018, Winfrey met with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.  Winfrey was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.


African Americans/Voices of Triumph
by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Copyright 1993, TimeLife Inc.

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