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African American celebrity and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954), was in kinship care as a child. 

Oprah Winfrey was born in Mississippi to a single mother named Vernita. Vernita left Oprah in the care of her grandmother as a baby when she moved to the North to start a new life. In the 1950s, many African Americans migrated from the South in search of a better life due to racism, segregation, and minimal life opportunities. 

I was left with my grandmother, like so many other black youngsters…It actually probably saved my life…My grandmother taught me to read and that opened the door to all kinds of possibilities for me (Academy of Achievement).

Oprah lived on a farm with her grandmother for the first six years of her life. She credits the hard physical life of her grandmother for motivating her to have a different life.  

I remember standing on the back porch – and my grandmother was boiling clothes because, you know at that time, we didn’t having washing machines…She was boiling clothes and poking them down. And I was watching her from the back porch, and I was four years old and I remember thinking, “My life won’t be like this. My life won’t be like this, it will be better” (Academy of Achievement.)

Life became even more difficult for Oprah when she moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to be reunited with her mother. She was raped by a cousin, and sexually assaulted by an uncle and a family friend.  

At age fourteen, Oprah moved to Nashville to live with her father. He was a positive influence for Oprah, expecting her to be well-behaved and achieve good grades in high school. 

I remember my father saying to me, “You can’t bring C’s in this house because you are not a C student. If you were a C student you could… But you are not a C student; you are an A student (Academy of Achievement.) 

Oprah was nineteen when she started working in television as a co-anchor for the local CBS station. Then, after graduating from Tennessee State University, Oprah became a co-anchor in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1977 she became co-host of a morning talk show. 

In 1984, Oprah moved to Chicago where she boosted the ratings of an existing talk show. The programme was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1985 and was syndicated nationally the following year. It was one of the longest-running daytime television shows in American history and won a total of forty-seven Daytime Emmy Awards. 

Oprah made her film debut in The Color Purple (1982), a quintessential story of an African American young woman who overcomes childhood trauma and adversity to lead a fulfilling life.  

I read the book. I passed the book around to everybody I knew… And when I heard that there was going to be a movie, I started talking it up for myself… I’d never acted in my life. But I felt it so intensely that I had to be a part of that movie (Academy of Achievement).

Oprah went on to form her own production companies, Harpo Productions (1986) and Harpo Films (1990). She has featured in numerous films including Beloved (1998), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017), and A Wrinkle in Time (2018). 

In 1996, Oprah revolutionised daytime television by starting an on-air book club. Her magazine O, the Oprah Magazine launched in 2000, followed by O at Home in 2004. In 2011, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) was launched to replace the Discovery Health Channel. 

Oprah is well-known for her in-depth celebrity interviews and panel discussions in response to controversial news, such as George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis in 2020, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship with the Royal Family.  

Oprah is a dedicated philanthropist. In 1998 she started Oprah’s Angel Network, a charity encouraging others to made a difference by funding education and housing initiatives around the globe.

The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation (OWCF) was established “to lead, to educate, to uplift, to inspire and to empower women and children throughout the world, opening doors so that each person can begin to define what it would mean to lead their best life and fulfill their own possibility for greatness (OWCF). 

Oprah has received many accolades for her journalism and philanthropic work. Most notable are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013) and the Cecil B. DeMille Award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (2018). 


Lewis, Rebecca. “Oprah Winfrey shares amazing unseen childhood pictures as she launches new series The Hair Tales.” Hello! Magazine, 22 Oct 2022. 

“About Us.” Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation. 

“Oprah Winfrey.” Academy of Achievement. 

“Oprah Winfrey American Television Personality, Actress and Entrepreneur.” Britannica, 2019. 

Image available here.