This Friday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will be unveiling “Watching Oprah,” a year long exhibit that unpacks how this country shaped Oprah Winfrey and how she ultimately had a major hand in helping to shape America.

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Winfrey was a social influencer well before Instagram and Twitter made that a monetized aspiration, and now she’s finally getting her well deserved and long overdue recognition as not just a media mogul, but also as part of American history.

Several journalists were provided with a preview of the exhibit and theGrio was on hand to discover all that it has to offer. If you’re planning to make the trip to Washington D.C., here are five reasons why you need to add this exhibit to your must-see list this summer.


1Timely reminder of this country’s unsavory past

Oprah Winfrey with her mother, Vernita Lee (left), andher aunt Christine at her grandmother’s house, ca. 1955 (Courtesy of Jermaine House/Smithsonian and on loan from HARPO, Inc.)

Oprah was born in 1954 and grew up during the height of the Jim Crow era. Her front row seat to the major transitions this country went through politically is part of the reason why she, as a Black woman, was particularly well suited to demand her audience view the world through a lens of heightened compassion and awareness.

While a woman of color has yet to lead us in the White House, Oprah arguably had just as much of an influence by speaking to us five days a week through our television screens. Which is why the team at the Smithsonian went all out to make this sure this exhibit not only celebrated Lady O but also explained what her story means in the greater context of African-American history.

“This exhibit examines the power of television,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. “Just as Oprah Winfrey watched TV coverage of the civil rights movement and was shaped by the era in which she was born and raised, she has to on to a have a profound effect on how Americans view themselves and each other in the tumultuous decades that followed.”