Oprah Winfrey was born in 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, where she spent her early years on her grandmother’s farm without electricity or running water. It was her grandmother who taught her to read, and books became her friends. From the age of three, she recited Biblical passages and read them in church.
Despite a difficult childhood and rebellious teenage years, Winfrey overcame her obstacles, finishing high school and later graduating from Tennessee State University, where she majored in speech communications. She worked during college and, at age 19, became the first black woman to anchor the news at WTVF-TV in Nashville. In 1976, she became co-anchor of the six o’clock news in Baltimore and then co-host of a local program, People Are Talking.
In 1984, Winfrey moved to Chicago to host AM Chicago, which became the top-rated talk show just one month after she began. In less than a year, the show expanded to one hour and was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In 1996, Winfrey began Oprah’s Book Club, an on-air club designed to get the country excited about reading. Each selection has become an instant bestseller. In 1997, she launched Oprah’s Angel Network, a campaign encouraging people to open their hearts a little wider and help those in need. She later established the Use Your Life Award and has since awarded it to individuals who, through their charitable organizations, are making a difference in the lives of others.
Winfrey founded and became the editorial director of O, The Oprah Magazine, a monthly magazine credited for having had the most successful magazine launch in recent history. In 2002, she launched the magazine’s first international edition in South Africa.
Winfrey co-founded Oxygen Media LLC, which includes a women’s cable network that launched in 2000. She has created and produced three original series for the Oxygen Network, including Oprah After the Show, a spontaneous, unscripted, daily half-hour show taped after The Oprah Winfrey Show.
As an actress, Winfrey has earned critical acclaim for her many acting roles, including an Academy Award nomination for her debut in The Color Purple. Through Harpo Films, she has produced several Emmy Award–winning television movies, including Tuesdays with Morrie, and in 1998, she produced and starred in Touchstone Pictures’ Beloved.
The Oprah Winfrey Foundations were established to inspire, empower, and educate women, children, and families around the world. Through those private charities, Winfrey has directly served the needs of low-income people and has awarded hundreds of grants to organizations that carry out this vision.