Even before she said a single inspiring and incendiary word at the 75th Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey had already made awards-show history. As this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient, the TV mogul became the first black woman to win the honor.
Winfrey very much remained in tonight’s protest spirit while accepting the award from Reese Witherspoon, another influential woman in Hollywood who showed her support for Time’s Up, the newly-established anti-harassment initiative. The OWN Network founder called out the “brutally powerfully men” who’d “broken” the entertainment industry—albeit not permanent, if tonight’s shows of solidarity are any indication—and spoke movingly of the survivors who had been silenced for too long.
“It is not lost on me that, at this moment, there is some little girl watching as I become the first black woman to be given the same award,” Winfrey said, as she was also the only woman of color to receive any award tonight. (Some progress comes in inches, it seems.) As grown women—and men—took in Winfrey’s stirring words, she gave the glitterati and viewers at home a brief but powerful history lesson. Winfrey spoke of Recy Taylor, a black woman in Alabama who was walking home from church one day in 1944 when she was abducted by six white men. She was raped and brutalized, but though the men admitted to their crimes, two reluctant (or indifferent) grand juries meant that no charges were ever brought against them.
“Justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted,” Winfrey said, even as she noted civil rights activist Rosa Parks’ involvement in the NAACP’s investigation into the attack on Taylor, who died 10 days before the awards ceremony. Speaking of the kind of men who perpetrate those and other types of sex crimes and harassment, Winfrey said “Their time is up. I hope Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth goes marching on.”
“What I’ve always tried my best to do is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame. How we love, and how we rage. How we fail, retreat, persevere, and how we overcome,” Winfrey told the audience. Which is why she has hope that there will come “a time when nobody has to say ‘Me Too’ ever again.” You can watch the whole speech above.