Oprah Winfrey’s legacy continues to influence younger generations


Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Oprah Winfrey during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013.

As Black History Month draws to a close, take another look at one of the biggest influences on American culture and history: Oprah Winfrey.  After creating her own talk show, television network, magazine and production company, her impact on TV will live on forever, all while being an activist for human rights.

As a young girl, I grew up watching Oprah with my mom. She really inspired the women in my household, especially my mother. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was one of the first shows my mother watched when she came to America in her mid 20’s from Gabon in Central Africa. She was fascinated with how strong and hardworking Oprah was. As a family, we would watch  together and my mom would ask me and my sister to translate the show, so she could understand every word. Oprah’s ambition helped inspire my mother’s ambition.

Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 29, 1954. Winfrey came from a poor family and was raised in the ghettos of Milwaukee, alongside her mother and half brother.

While living in Milwaukee, Winfrey endured sexual abuse, something she was later open about on her show. Later on in her childhood, she moved in with her father in Nashville, Tennessee, a moment she credits with turning the tide of her life. Here, the beginning of her incredible television and radio career blossomed.

While in high school, she began to take up an interest in radio news-casting. After graduating, she received a scholarship to Tennessee State University in 1971. While in college, she started working in radio and broadcasting.

In 1976, Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland to co-host a talk show called “People Are Talking.” She started to make buzz for being one of the first black co-host on a television show in Maryland and her charismatic personality also dazzled the audience.  After developing a name for herself over the course of eight years, she received an opportunity to host her own morning television show called “A.M. Chicago.”

Soon after the show started she started to get a lot of attention and she even beat out her current competition, Phil Donahue, in ratings. Soon after, she started her own self-titled talk show in 1986.  On the massive hit show, she was willing to shed light upon current controversial topics. To gain ownership of the show, she created a production company called Harpo Productions.

In 2011, Winfrey decided to end her talk show and  create her own television network called OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). Winfrey also launched her own successful magazine. Oprah Winfrey’s legacy within multiple industries has left numerous black women inspired and determined to achieve their dreams as well. She has inspired women such as talk show host Wendy Williams and television producer Shonda Rhimes to not be afraid to be a hardworking and charismatic black women in the world of television. When I was young, Oprah’s take on controversial topics on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” was my first look at the reality of the world. Oprah’s unfiltered and realistic opinion really inspired me as a young girl to not be scared to have a strong opinion as well.


While Winfrey’s biography of Oprah Winfrey is well known because of her impact on television and of her journey from poverty to fame and fortune, here is a list of 15 lesser known facts:


  1. Oprah’s real name is Oprah but ever since she was little, teachers, friends, and even family member mispronounced her name and eventually it stuck.
  2. While Oprah was living in poverty in Mississippi, her family didn’t have enough money to buy clothes and she ended up have to wear dresses made out of potatoes sacks and all the children at school made fun of her.
  3. Oprah’s first big acting role was in “The Color Purple” and she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; in 2005, she revived the movie on Broadway musical as a producer.
  4. Oprah has contributed millions to others through a couple of her charity foundations. Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $50 million for charitable programs, including girls’ education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
  5. In January 2018, Winfrey became the first African-American woman to be honored with the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement
  6. Winfrey is an activist for children’s rights and she proposed a law to have a nationwide database on all child abusers; the law was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
  7. According to Forbes Magazine, Oprah is the richest African-American and North America’s first African American multi-billionaire of the 20th century
  8. She has been ranked as the greatest black philanthropist in American history.
  9. Winfrey campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, helping deliver over a million votes in the 2008 Democratic primary race.
  10. At the age of 17, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant.
  11. Oprah’s production company Harpo produced its first mini-series “The Women of Brewster Place,” the highly rated series she also starred in.
  12. In 1993, Oprah conducted a rare prime time interview with Michael Jackson that was the fourth most watched event in American television history, and the most watched interview ever, with an audience of 35 million people.
  13. In 2013, Winfrey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
  14. Oprah created a boarding school for girls in South Africa called the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and considers it her greatest accomplishment.
  15. Oprah was forced but grateful for being taught to read and write at age 2 by her grandmother.