Oprah and How She Overcame Abuse

by Patsy Asamoah-Addo

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure

-Oprah Winfrey


Oprah's Childhood

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She was born on an isolated farm with her grandmother. Her parents, Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey had left her after she was born. As a kid, Oprah would practice public speaking in front of the animals in the barn. After writing a note to a teacher explaining why she belonged in first grade, she skipped kindergarten and was immediately promoted to first grade. She started reading and writing at only age 2. After beginning elementary school, she skipped a grade again and was placed in the third grade class. When Oprah was 6 years old, she was sent to Milwaukee to live with her mother and half- siblings. Her mother was mostly away at her job as a maid, so Oprah spent most of her time with her half sister, Patricia. After a year of living with her mother, Oprah was sent back to Nashville to live with her father and step-mother. She began publicly speaking in churches. After third grade, Oprah's father took her to Milwaukee to visit her mother and after fall, she decided to stay and begin fourth grade in Milwaukee. When Oprah was 9, she was left with her siblings and her cousin, who was 19 at the time. This was the person who had sexually abused her. He raped her, took her out for ice cream and was told to keep it a secret. She was then abused again by a family friend a couple years later, and an uncle. She kept all of this to herself. Unable to tell anyone about the abuse, Oprah turned to acting out. She skipped school, stole money, and ran away. Her mother couldn't handle any of this bad behavior, so she sent Oprah back to Nashville when she was 14. Oprah then discovered that she was pregnant, but she never told her parents until her 7th month. The day she told her father, she went into early labor. The baby turned out to be a boy, but sadly he died within 2 weeks. Things started getting better for Oprah at 16. She started getting her life back on track. Focusing on education, and public speaking.
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Oprah and her mother, Vernita Lee
Oprah's Childhood and Parents - Barbra Walters

Overcoming Abuse

During an interview with David Letterman, Oprah says, "I am so grateful for my years literally living in poverty because it make the experience of creating success and building success that much more rewarding." It took Oprah a long way to get to where she's at now. It took her a long time to overcome her abuse, but she was able to do it. After being sexually abused, she found out she was pregnant at 14. Her baby was born early and ended up being a boy. He sadly died within two weeks. At 16, Oprah began focusing on her education and public speaking more and thinking positively. In 1970, she won the Elk's Club speaking competition and earned a 4 year scholarship.

Works Cited

    • Fry, Elizabeth. "A Childhood Biography of Oprah Winfrey."Aboutentertainment.com. N.p., 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
    • Springer, Alicia. "Oprah's Greatest Accomplishments." ILongevity. Jerrick Ventures, 22 Dec. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
    • "Oprah Winfrey Biography." - Life, Family, Childhood, Parents, Name, Story, History, School, Mother, Young. Advameg, Inc., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
    • Street, Elizabeth. "Overcoming Obstacles: What Oprah Winfrey Learned From Her Childhood of Abuse." Http://www.learningliftoff.com/. K12 Inc., 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
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    Oprah sits with David Letterman to talk about overcoming abuse