Orpah Gail Winfrey was born on January 29, 1954 on the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement in what was arguably the most racist, scariest and most racially-violent state in the Deep South and the nation as a whole.

Oprah’s mother, Vernita Lee, was a housemaid. Winfrey’s original name was “Orpah” but her family and friends didn’t know how to pronounce it correctly, and called her “Oprah” instead. Winfrey had been under the impression that her real father was Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner/barber turned city councilman. He was in the Armed Forces when she was born. Later on in life a Mississippi farmer and World War II veteran Noah Robinson Sr. claimed he was her real father.

Oprah Winfrey was taught to read at age 3 by her grandmother, helping her develop her knack for public speaking. “[People] would say to my grandmother, ‘Hattie Mae, this child sure can talk. She is the talkingest child,” Winfrey told CNN.