Oprah Visits a County Where No Black Person Had Lived for 75 Years

Aired on 02/09/1987 | CC
In 1987, The Oprah Show had only been on the air for five months and trouble was brewing in the deep south. Forsyth County, Georgia, known for being a hotbed of racism, was in the headlines for some residents' hostile response to local civil rights protests. For the first time, Oprah left her studio and headed straight into the eye of the storm.

"What are you afraid that black people are going to do?" Oprah asked the all-white audience of community members. "I'm afraid of them coming to Forsyth county," one man said. "I lived in Atlanta—I was born in Atlanta—and in 1963 the first blacks were bussed to West Fulton High School. And I go down there now, and I see my neighborhood and my community, which was a nice community, a nice neighborhood, and now it's nothing but a rat-infested slum area because they don't care. They don't care."

Not everyone in the attendance that day shared his indignation. At least one woman contradicted the media portrayal when she said, "I just really hate to think that it's going to take either someone black or white getting hurt or losing their lives before people can sit down and talk this out. It is a time for change—there's nothing we can do about it."

Watch highlights from the tense episode above and learn more about a dark chapter in our recent history.

Original airdate: February 9, 1987

Watch more historical moments involving race relations and Civil Rights from The Oprah Show's 25-year run.