Special Exhibition Honoring Oprah Winfrey Opens At National Museum of African-American History & Culture

June 8, 2018  |  

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In the words of Oprah Winfrey herself, “How many people who are alive get exhibits?”

That’s what her BFF and CBS This Morning correspondent Gayle King said Oprah asked as they walked through a sneak peak of a new special 4,300 sq. ft. exhibition that features the American impact of the TV talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Opening today, “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” will explore how the world shaped Oprah, and in turn, how she shaped the world, according to Museum Director Lonnie Bunch.

“The Oprah Winfrey Show was a gift to me, and I believe a gift to culture,” Oprah said in the exhibit’s promo video.

The exhibit takes us from the year 1954, the year that the media mogul was born. And according to Oprah, it was the “right time” to be born because that year also marked the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Coming into a world where racial walls were slowly being torn down, a little black girl named Oprah Winfrey would be able to blaze a trail that none had seen before.

Not only was Oprah shaped by American law, she was shaped by media. As a 10-year-old girl, she saw the girl group The Supremes on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and it made her realize that you can be a beautiful black woman on television.

With these events and more, Oprah listened to and followed the fire within her to become what she was meant to be. And hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show would be the beginning of that journey. Oprah’s personal journal entry the night before the show went national on Sept. 8, 1986 reflects this perfectly.

“Exactly eight hours before the national show, I keep wondering how my life will change, if it will change, what all this means, why have I been so blessed. Maybe going national was to help me realize that I have an important work or that this work is important. I just know that I must be pressed to the mark of the high calling,” it reads.

And what a high calling it was. With 4,561 shows in 25 seasons, Oprah transcended what a talk show could be. Remember Ricki Lake or The Jenny Jones Show? While those shows definitely did what they did best, Oprah’s format aimed to heal. And the museum honors that even more with a wall of all of her shows with the names and dates, an overwhelming display to look upon.

To sum up the exhibition, it’s a testament to Oprah’s desire to do good in the world, and The Oprah Winfrey Show was the start of a big wave that the 64-year-old continues to hear about today.

“I do believe that we had a big impact on the culture, and I continue to feel that from people everyday,” she said.

You can watch the CBS This Morning special with Oprah, reported by Gayle below.

Renese spends her early mornings writing, her days securing insurance for TV shows, and her in-betweens blogging about the silliness and seriousness of life on her blog. Follow Renese on Twitter: @reneseford

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