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Watching Oprah

Oprah Winfrey waves to the crowd

Image Credit: Harpo Studios

As an African American woman who founded her own media company and became a cultural icon watched by millions of viewers, Oprah Winfrey harnessed the power of the media to break down barriers, empower herself and inspire others.

A new exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture, considers Winfrey's influence in her many roles—as a talk show host, actress, media mogul, philanthropist and daughter of the civil rights era. It is on view through June 2019.

The exhibition uses the story of Winfrey and her 25-year daytime talk show to examine issues of power, race, gender and the media in contemporary American culture. It features video clips, interviews with Winfrey, costumes from her films Beloved and The Color Purple and artifacts from Harpo Studios in Chicago, home of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

"During her 25 years on broadcast television, her remarkable ability to connect in a familiar way with diverse audiences was crucial to her success," said Rhea L. Combs, a curator for the exhibition. "Many of the values she espoused on her show--including empowerment, education, spirituality and philanthropy--were rooted in her African American identity and upbringing."

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