Smith­so­nian ex­hibits Oprah Win­frey

South Florida Times - - NATION - By BEATRICE JIN and TRAMON LU­CAS

WASH­ING­TON - One of the most rec­og­niz­able open­ings in tele­vi­sion his­tory blares on a video screen: “I'm Oprah Win­frey, and wel­come to The Oprah Win­frey Show!'' The crowd goes wild. At the cen­ter of it all, a danc­ing young Oprah.

This mo­ment, tele­vised more than 30 years ago, is now part of a year­long ex­hi­bi­tion that opened Fri­day at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture.

“Watch­ing Oprah: The Oprah Win­frey Show and Amer­i­can Cul­ture” chron­i­cles the so­cial events in the United States from Win­frey's birth in 1954 through her child­hood and her rise in me­dia to her time as the na­tion's first self-made black woman bil­lion­aire.

Win­frey toured the ex­hibit and told “CBS This Morn­ing'' that she was hon­ored by the ex­hibit and the re­sponse to it. “I do be­lieve that we had a big im­pact on the cul­ture, and I con­tinue to feel that from peo­ple ev­ery day,'' she said. The tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity has do­nated $21 mil­lion to the mu­seum. But mu­seum di­rec­tor Lon­nie Bunch said the do­na­tion did not in­flu­ence the cre­ation of the show­case.

“This is not a show for Oprah or by Oprah,'' he said. “This is a show about other is­sues us­ing the lens of Oprah.”

Among the first ob­jects that vis­i­tors see is a yel­lowed pen­nant from the 1963 March on Wash­ing­ton, and the di­ploma of Car­lotta Walls, one of the nine black stu­dents who in­te­grated Cen­tral High School in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion is re­ally an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the cul­tural im­pact of The Oprah Win­frey Show,” said ex­hi­bi­tions cu­ra­tor Kath­leen Ken­dricks.“This is a chance to re­ally put Oprah in this broader con­text of AfricanAmer­i­can his­tory and cul­ture and un­pack her pop­u­lar­ity and sig­nif­i­cance.”

On her walk­through, Win­frey watched one of the ex­hibit's tele­vi­sions dis­plays show­ing the Supremes singing and danc­ing on The Ed Sul­li­van Show.“It was the first time I re­al­ized you could be a beau­ti­ful black woman on tele­vi­sion,” she said.

Win­frey's head­shot pops out of mag­a­zine cov­ers stretch­ing across the wall: For­tune, EBONY, Me­di­aweek, Na­tional Re­view, Newsweek. Her first name is used as a verb, along with new words like “Oprah­fi­ca­tion” and “Oprahlif­er­a­tive.”

HARPO Pro­duc­tions, Inc., which Win­frey founded in 1986, pro­vided many items for the ex­hibit from her per­sonal life and ca­reer. A di­ary is opened to Septem­ber 8, 1986, where Win­frey said, “Ex­actly 8 hours be­fore the na­tional 1st show. I keep won­der­ing how my life will change.”

Through­out the gallery, Win­frey's per­sonal ef­fects _ evening gowns, de­signer cloth­ing and shoes, her drink­ing glass, the Golden Globe she was awarded ear­lier this year - are jux­ta­posed along­side video clips from "The Oprah Win­frey Show." There are also blue cue cards, green room pho­tos with celebrity guests, and keys from a ve­hi­cle that was a prize in Win­frey's fa­mous “You get a car!” give­away.

Win­frey's highly pop­u­lar daytime talk show aired for 25 years and 4,561 episodes, end­ing in 2011. Win­frey dis­cussed top­ics rang­ing from sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, body im­age, health, and, as fea­tured in the mu­seum, the idea of woman em­pow­er­ment, es­pe­cially for women of color.

“In many ways, we re­al­ize that this is a fas­ci­nat­ing story, not just about an in­di­vid­ual, but about a change in our cul­ture, about the chang­ing no­tions of the power in me­dia in the role of race,” Bunch said


ICONIC SET: The "Oprah Win­frey Show," is chron­i­cled in an ex­hibit at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture.

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