Oprah's First National Broadcast - 9/8/1986

US History |

On September 8th of 1986, the Oprah Winfrey Show became a syndicated national program, and from then on was broadcast all over America until 2011.

Oprah's mega successful daytime talk show turned her into one of the wealthiest, powerful, and influential women in the entertainment industry. Oprah is also known for her extreme philanthropy, and is often listed among the nation's biggest givers. 

Oprah came from humble beginnings, to say the least. She was born to an unwed mother in rural Mississippi in 1954. As a child, Oprah moved to an inner city of Milwaukee to live with relatives. The family was so poor that Oprah had to wear dresses made from potato sacks. She was sexually abused by several relatives for quite a few years, and eventually ran away from home. Subsequently, Oprah lived with her grandmother in Nashville.

Fortunately, her grandmother, Hattie Mae, had always been very interested in Oprah's education, and Oprah had always done well in school. She was an honors student and was voted “most popular girl.” While still in high school, Oprah won an oratory contest, which secured her a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee. There, she studied communications.

Her first job as a teenager was working at a local grocery store. At the age of 17, she won the Miss Black Tennessee Beauty Pageant. This attracted the attention of a radio station (WVOL), who gave her a part time job as a news anchor. That's where Oprah first made history. By the age of 17, she had already become both the youngest ever and the first African American news anchor to hit the airwaves, on WVOL in Nashville and in Baltimore.

In 1984, she was invited to Chicago, to host a low rated morning talk show. With the appearance of Oprah, the ratings skyrocketed and the show climbed in ratings higher than the competing Phil Donahue show. The Chicago morning talk show was her first clear demonstration of “The Oprah Effect.” In other words, anything that Oprah gets involved with or endorses undergoes a sharp increase in popularity. This works in other mediums too. When Oprah recommends a book, it becomes an immediate best seller. 

At some point, Chicago movie critic Roger Ebert suggested that Oprah sign a syndication deal. This led to Oprah's show going national on September 8th of 1986.

By the age of 32, Oprah was already a millionaire.

Oprah is also credited with being the first talk show host to give the LGBT community mainstream coverage. And also, with developing a form of “therapy” that involves public confession. Eventually, public confession as a form of therapy came to be known as “oprahfication.”

The Oprah Winfrey Show ran until 2011, undergoing several format changes in the process. The show had consistently more than 45 million viewers. But Oprah was far from retiring. That same year, she bought her own TV network, and called it OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network).

These days, Oprah is a billionaire who gives generously to many charities. 

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.