Oprah Winfrey brings the Golden Globes to tears with inspiring speech

Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

On Sunday, Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes — and her speech put the “O” in standing ovation. After an introduction by her co-star in A Wrinkle in Time, Reese Witherspoon, and a daunting montage of her TV and film career highlights, Winfrey offered up an epic acceptance speech that was part history lesson, part inspirational sermon, and part call to action. In other words, it was a speech only Oprah could give.

Winfrey began by sharing a formative childhood memory: Watching Sidney Poitier become the first black actor to ever win an Oscar in 1964 (for Lilies of the Field). “In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award,” she said. She thanked those little girls in the audience (“It is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them”), along with some of the people who were instrumental in her success, including Quincy Jones (who recommended her to Steven Spielberg for her Oscar-nominated role in 1982’s The Color Purple) and her best friend, Gayle King.

Then Winfrey pivoted to talking about the MeToo and Time’s Up movements, a major topic on an evening when attendees were almost universally wearing black in solidarity against discrimination and sexual harassment. “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” she said. “And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.

“But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry,” she continued. “It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.”

Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

After acknowledging that women endure abuse in every field and walk of life, Winfrey told the story of a woman who fought abuse against impossible odds: Recy Taylor. In 1944, Taylor, an African-American woman living in Alabama, was kidnapped while walking home from church and raped by six white men. For years, Taylor fought to bring her attackers to justice — and while the men were never punished, her resilience inspired others in the civil rights movement, including a young Rosa Parks. (Taylor’s story is told in the 2017 documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor.)