Celebrate Black History
American television host, actress, producer and philanthropist Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. After a troubled adolescence in a small farming community, where she was sexually abused by a number of male relatives and friends of her mother, Vernita, she moved to Nashville to live with her father, Vernon, a barber and businessman. She entered Tennessee State University in 1971 and began working in radio and television broadcasting in Nashville.
In 1976, Oprah Winfrey moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she hosted the TV chat show People Are Talking. The show became a hit and Winfrey stayed with it for eight years, after which she was recruited by a Chicago TV station to host her own morning show, A.M. Chicago. Her major competitor in the time slot was Phil Donahue. Within several months, Winfrey’s open, warm-hearted personal style had won her 100,000 more viewers than Donahue and had taken her show from last place to first in the ratings. Her success led to nationwide fame and a role in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film The Color Purple, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 as a nationally syndicated program. With its placement on 120 channels and an audience of 10 million people, the show grossed $125 million by the end of its first year, of which Winfrey received $30 million. She soon gained ownership of the program from ABC, drawing it under the control of her new production company, Harpo Productions (‘Oprah’ spelled backwards) and making more and more money from syndication.
” Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.” ~Oprah Winfrey
Oprah made her debut as a film actress in the 1985 period drama film, The Color Purple. Oprah played a troubled housewife named, Sofia. Oprah was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This movie went on to become a Broadway musical adaptation. In 1998 Oprah starred in the movie, Beloved which she also produced. Winfrey played the character Sethe who was a former slave. Winfrey has also acted in several movies such as Charlotte’s Web, Bee Movie, and The Princess And The Frog.
Oprah Winfrey in 1998 received an Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2011 Oprah Winfrey received a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences.
In the early years of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the program was classified as a tabloid talk show. In the mid-1990s, Winfrey adopted a less tabloid-oriented format, hosting shows on broader topics such as heart disease, geopolitics, spirituality and meditation, interviewing celebrities on social issues they were directly involved with, such as cancer, charity work, or substance abuse, and hosting televised giveaways including shows where every audience member received a new car (donated by General Motors) or a trip to Australia (donated by Australian tourism bodies).
In addition to her talk show, Winfrey also produced and co-starred in the 1989 drama miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, as well as a short-lived spin-off, Brewster Place. As well as hosting and appearing on television shows, Winfrey co-founded the women’s cable television network Oxygen. She is also the president of HarpoProductions (Oprah spelled backwards). On January 15, 2008, Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced plans to change Discovery Health Channel into a new channel called OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. It was scheduled to launch in 2009, but was delayed, and actually launched on January 1, 2011.
Winfrey’s career choice in media would not have surprised her grandmother, who once said that ever since Winfrey could talk, she was on stage. As a child, she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family’s property. Winfrey later acknowledged her grandmother’s influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and “gave me a positive sense of myself”
Oprah Winfrey will forever be remembered as an innovator through the landmarks she made, becoming the first African American to host a television show. Inspiring millions of people across the world, discussing significant issues on her show such as equal rights toward genders, racism, poverty, and many others. Oprah will be seen as an icon someone who paved the way for others to become successful.
This Day In Black History (Feb. 26):
1. BIRTH & DEATH OF WALLACE FARAD (1900-1934) – Wallace Fard Muhammad (possibly born in 1893) was a preacher and founder of the Nation of Islam (NOI). He established the Nation of Islam’s first mosque in Detroit, Michigan in 1930 and preached his distinctive religion there for three years before mysteriously disappearing in 1934. He was later proclaimed to have been Allah on earth by Elijah Muhammad.
2. CASSIUS CLAY BECOMES MUHAMMAD ALI (1964) – On this day in 1964; The heavyweight boxer then known as Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. “I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and in peace…I’m not a Christian anymore.”
3. 1ST FEDERAL RESERVE GOVERNOR (1966) – President Lynodn Johnson appoints Andrew Brimmer as the first African-American governor of the Federal Reserve Board.
- ‘Oprah’s Next Chapter’ Featuring Beyonce Scores Over 1.3 Million Viewers on OWN (tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com)
- Star Transformation: Oprah Winfrey! (k1047.cbslocal.com)
- Top Moments In Black History: Oprah Winfrey Ends Talk Show, Launches OWN Network (oldschool1053.com)
- EXCLUSIVE: Oprah Winfrey On What it Means to Be a Powerful Black Woman in Hollywood (essence.com)
- Report: Lance Armstrong to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey (tracking.si.com)
- Happy 59th Birthday, OWN Network CEO and TV Host Oprah Winfrey (goodblacknews.org)