Oprah Winfrey was born Orpah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, a former maid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner, barber, and city councilman.
While Winfrey has been cited as the richest African American of the 20th century, she does not come from a rich, or even middle class, family. She was born in an economically troubled neighborhood and raised by a single-teenaged mother in the city of Milwaukee. Orpah, named after a biblical character, had a name no one could pronounce, so her family and friends starting calling her Oprah. Shortly after Oprah's birth, Vernita Lee left her daughter and traveled north. Oprah was then raised by her grandmother,Hatti Mae Lee. Oprah while being raised by her grandmother lived in terrible conditions. Oprah's only friends were farm animals,however even at that age Oprah had a very imaginative mind. Oprah would frequently give the animals dramatic parts and included them in games. This was perhaps where she had gotten the craze for acting, and would soon be seen in legendary masterpieces such as The Color Purple (1985). Oprah because of her grandmother's values, had religion and God instilled in herself at a very young age. Oprah because of her grandmother knew how to read,and write before the age of three. Oprah during church would recite poems,and verses from the bible. Soon the church, and the entire neighborhood knew she had a gift and was nicknamed,"The Little Speaker". This would soon prompt her to become a woman with a strong perspective, which millions across the world would want to have insight on. This prepared her for The Oprah Winfrey Show (1984).