This Day in Black History: Oprah Winfrey becomes first African American to host syndicated talk show

HOUSTON — Talk show host and philanthropist Orpah Gail Winfrey was born Jan. 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

Winfrey was named after the biblical figure in the Book of Ruth, “Orpah,” but she changed her name to “Oprah” when people mispronounced her name.

Winfrey suffered through abuse at a very young age, but she does not allow those devastating times to define who she is today.

In her teenage years, Winfrey was sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from East Nashville High School. Before graduating, Winfrey won an oratory contest that earned her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she earned her degree in communication.

In 1971, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant at the age of 17. Before her career in television, Winfrey was hired for a part-time position in the news department with WVOL– a local African American radio station.

In 1976, Winfrey moved to Baltimore to co-anchor the six o’clock news for WJZ-TV. In 1977, she was removed as co-anchor and worked lower-profile positions at the station.

In 1978, Winfrey joined Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ-TV’s local talk show People Are Talking.

In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. Within months, the show went from last place in the ratings to the highest-rated talk show in Chicago; it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show.

On Feb. 8, 1986, Winfrey was known as the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show.

In 1985, Winfrey’s first film The Color Purple allowed her to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In 1998, Winfrey created the Oprah’s Angel Network — a charity that supports charitable projects and provides grants to nonprofit organizations around the world. In 2004, Winfrey became the first African American woman to rank among the 50 most generous Americans.

In 2011, after 25 years of greatness and genuine moments, The Oprah Winfrey Show gave its farewell season to the viewers. To this day, The Oprah Winfrey Show remains the highest-rated daytime talk show in American television history.

Winfrey used her platform to help grow The Oprah Winfrey Show to new heights. On Jan. 1, 2011, Winfrey debuted her network company, OWN, to over 80 million viewers.

Winfrey is known as an unstoppable woman who creates opportunities where needed. She sets a great example to every woman and proves that the “sky’s the limit.”

List of few awards and honors achieved by Oprah Winfrey:

1989: NAACP Image Award for Entertainer of the Year

1994, 1995, 1997, 1998: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show

1996: Peabody Award

2000: Spingarn Medal

2000: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show

2004: People’s Choice Award for Favorite Talk Show

2010: Kennedy Center Honors

2011: Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

2018: Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award