A biography of Oprah Winfrey would not be complete without a look at her early life. The larger-than-life success, fame, and fortune she enjoys today did not come easy and she had to overcome many challenges. Her achievements inspire many, and it"s easy to see how her childhood shaped the woman who would come to be known worldwide.
More than a mere talk show host, Oprah is an award-winning actress and producer, a media mogul, and a philanthropist.
Many people count her among the most influential women internationally.
Like anyone who has achieved the success, Oprah Winfrey"s story had to start somewhere. In her case, it was 1950s-era Mississippi.
Oprah "s Early Life in Mississippi
Oprah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her mother, Vernita Lee, was 18 at the time, and her father, Vernon Winfrey, was 20.
While Oprah was very young, Vernita moved north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to find work. She planned to move her young daughter there after securing a job. In the meantime, Oprah stayed on a Mississippi farm with her grandmother Hattie Mae Lee.
Oprah"s grandmother encouraged her love of books by teaching her how to read at the age of 3. She started by reading the Bible and soon began speaking at her church. Later, she would recite memorized verses to her grandmother"s friends.
When Oprah turned 5, she started kindergarten.
Since she already knew how to read and write, she was quickly moved into the first grade.
Oprah"s Move to Milwaukee
At 6 years old, Oprah"s grandmother became ill. The young girl was sent to live with her mother and half-sister, Patricia, in a Milwaukee boarding house. While Vernita worked as a maid cleaning houses, there were times when she had to rely on welfare to support the family.
Her job kept her very busy, and what little free time she did have with her children was mostly spent with Patricia.
After a little over a year in Milwaukee with her mother, Oprah was sent to live with her father and stepmother, Zelma, in Nashville, Tennessee. They were