- Lisa E. Rivo
- and Julie Wolf
talk show host, actor, and entrepreneur, was born Oprah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to eighteen-year- old Vernita Lee, and Vernon Winfrey, a twenty-year-old soldier. Vernita intended to call the baby “Orpah,” after the biblical figure, but accepted “Oprah” when the name was misspelled by a clerk. Shortly after her daughter's birth, Vernita left Mississippi for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, leaving her newborn under the watchful eye of Oprah's paternal grandparents, Hattie Mae Bullock and Earless Lee, who were pig farmers. In 1960 Oprah went to Milwaukee to join her mother, who was working as a maid and who had given birth to a second daughter, Patricia. Another child, Jeffrey followed a few years later and Vernita struggled to support herself and her three young children Bright and precocious Oprah skipped several grades in elementary school but despite her siblings and her early academic ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.