Oprah urges women to "speak their truth" in historic Golden Globes acceptance speech

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Emily Reynolds
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“Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell. This year we became the story.”

Oprah Winfrey has become the first black woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, using her speech to urge victims of sexual assault to “speak your truth”.

The award, first presented in 1952, celebrates “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”, and has previously been won by stars including Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington and Robin Williams – making Winfrey the first black woman to win the award.

And she started her speech recalling the first black man to win the best actor Oscar – Sidney Poitier.

“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards,” Winfrey said. “She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that.” 

“I’ve tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl.”

“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.”

The bulk of Winfrey’s speech addressed #MeToo, which has dominated this year’s Golden Globes.

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” she said. “I’m especially proud and inspired by all of 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. This year we became the story.”

But this story doesn’t just affect the entertainment industry, Winfrey continued – it “transcends culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace”.

“They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers; they are working in factories and they work in restaurants, and they’re in academia and engineering and medicine and science; they’re part of the world of tech and politics and business; they’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military,” she said. 

Winfrey also highlighted the story of Recy Taylor – a young black woman who was abducted and raped by six white men in 1944. Civil rights leader Rosa Parks led the investigation to seek justice – but “justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow”.

“She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men,” Winfrey said. “And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.”

“I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth — like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented — goes marching on.”

And the end of Winfrey’s speech was a rousing call to arms.

“So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too,’ again.”

The moving speech has been widely praised – with some even suggesting that Winfrey should run for president.

But will #Oprah2020 go from hashtag to reality in the next few years? Only time can tell…

Images: Rex Features