Oprah Keeps Painting of Enslaved Family in Her Home to Keep Her Grounded

Oprah Winfrey attends the European premiere of Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time at in London on March 13, 2018.
Oprah Winfrey attends the European premiere of Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time at in London on March 13, 2018.
Photo: Chris Jackson (Getty Images for Disney)

The indomitable Oprah Winfrey, who was recently honored with an entire exhibit of her life and work at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will never forget those who made it possible for her to become the trailblazing pioneer she remains.


According to a segment shared widely by CNN, during the opening of the exhibit last week, Winfrey said that she keeps a 6-foot painting of an enslaved woman on the auction block, holding her daughter’s hand placed, prominently in her home so that amid all of that opulence (because you know Oprah’s Santa Barbara, Calif., manse is nothing if not fabulous), she remains grounded.

“I cannot come in the door ... or I cannot leave, without passing that painting,” said Winfrey of the work that she says she’s owned for 30 years, titled, To the Highest Bidder, by Harry Roseland. “I am reminded of where I come from every day of my life.”

The media mogul said that she was very deliberate in the painting’s placement at the center of her home because it is, in fact, the center of her life.

“I am reminded every day of my life. And I am reminded because I never want to forget it,” said the 64-year-old billionaire.

Winfrey also said that in her library, she has a list of enslaved African Americans listed in ledgers along with livestock and property and says that she passes this list every day and sometimes speaks those people’s names and ages, including “Jonas, 11 years old, $500; Sarah, 41 years old, $900; Elizabeth, 57 years old, $800.”

“And I force myself to observe the absurdity and the obscenity of prices being affixed to each one should they be placed up for sale,” Winfrey said.


Winfrey said that she sometimes pauses before these names with a prayer, “particularly if I have to make a big decision about something” in her life.

“It reminds me, speaking those names, not only how far I’ve come from, but how far I have to go, because of them. And it reminds me that I am never alone,” she said.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.



Some young folk on woke twitter came for her behind this saying things are just as bad as they’ve always been for the marginalized and oppressed. But these kids have no comprehension of life before they were ever here when you didn’t see nor do certain things. They have no idea what restriction really is. What silencing really is. They rather dismiss her as a civil rights loving respectability politics pushing old head. Fuck these entitled woke babies. They don’t know nor do they care to understand.