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Nobody had a clue that my life could be anything but working in some factory or a cotton field in Mississippi
Oprah Winfrey’s young life had completely unraveled by the age of 14, when she discovered that she was pregnant. Herself born out of wedlock to a young woman in Kosciusco, Mississippi, Winfrey grew up in one of the bleakest parts of the poorest state in the nation. “I was raised with an outhouse, no plumbing,” she explained once. “Nobody had a clue that my life could be anything but working in some factory or a cotton field in Mississippi.” Her mother and father were not an intimate part of her early childhood; her father left Mississippi and moved to Nashville around the time of Oprah’s birth, and her mother soon after headed north to Milwaukee. Raised until the age of six by her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, Winfrey was a bright child who nevertheless grew up lonely, without any friends to speak of and surrounded by severe adults who expected children to be quiet and well behaved. Craving some form of companionship, she read stories and talked to the pigs in the barn. When she was six, Oprah moved to Milwaukee to join her mother, who was poor and put in long hours as a domestic worker. Oprah felt unwanted, resenting her lighter-skinned half sister and growing to hate her mother, whom she blamed for the sexual abuse she suffered from one of her mother’s male friends as well as from one of her uncles. Sexually promiscuous and increasingly hard for her mother to control, Oprah was at last sent away once more, this time to Nashville to live with her father. Already pregnant, she gave birth to a premature baby who died after only two weeks of life.
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