A new exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., explores Oprah's history-making legacy. We found the perfect person to give us a private tour.

buffalo united methodist church Photo: Leah L. Jones
1. Model of Childhood Church: “My religious upbringing is why I am who I am—and Buffalo United Methodist Church in Mississippi is where I developed my own values. I first spoke in public there at age 3, and that was the foundation for my broadcasting career.”

presidential medal of freedom
Photo: Walter Larrimore
2. Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013): “When I arrived at the White House to receive this, they wouldn’t let me in because my name wasn’t on the list. I had to stand out in the rain, and I remember thinking, Photos from today are going to last forever—and my hair is puffed up!”

Oprah high school id card
Photo: Benjamin G. Sullivan
3. High School I.D. Card (1967): “Mr. Abrams was a teacher at the inner-city high school I went to in Milwaukee. He thought I deserved better, so he helped me get into Nicolet High School. It was an interesting time, because I was just one of two black kids in a school of 2,000 white students.”

Oprah teenage diary
Photo: Benjamin G. Sullivan
4. Teenage Diary (c. 1970): “This journal is filled with a 15-year-old’s angst: I wrote about how Anthony wanted to take me out, but my dad said no because he once dated my friend Mildred. But Mildred no longer liked Anthony, so why couldn’t I date him?”

the oprah winfrey show on set
Photo: Harpo Inc./George Burns
5. Set Design (1997): “The chairs on the show originally had cloth upholstery. But when John F. Kennedy Jr. came on as a guest, they left lint on his suit! They were immediately re-covered in leather.”

the oprah winfrey show tshirt
Photo: Walter Larrimore
6. The Oprah Winfrey Show T-Shirt (1991): “Somebody on staff designed this for our fifth anniversary. Back then, I didn’t think we had 20 years left. Every two years, I’d say, I’m tired. Maybe it’s time to end this. But when, for the film Beloved, I reenacted what my ancestors went through, I realized I had no right to claim I was tired.”

oprah car giveaway red suit and bow
Photo: Walter Larrimore, Robert A. Davis and Harpo Inc./George Burns
7. Suit and Bow (2004): “When we gave away cars to audience members, nothing went unplanned: The keys were taped down in their boxes; the bows were the right size. Gayle didn’t think I should wear the red suit because it was too formal—but I knew I wanted to match the bows. Love is in the details.”


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