Oprah Winfrey brought the crowd at the Golden Globes to their feet after delivering a rousing acceptance speech that touched on the sexual misconduct reckoning in Hollywood, her impressive career, and her recognition of Recy Taylor, a black woman who was raped in Alabama in 1944 by six white men, but did not receive justice. The star was being honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award, which was presented to her by Reese Witherspoon, her co-star in the upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle in Time.
Winfrey began her speech by remembering the time she saw Sidney Poitier win an Oscar in 1964. “Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen,” she said. “I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that . . . I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses.”
She then brought the moment full circle. “It’s not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given the same award.”
Winfrey went on to thank the friends and collaborators who have impacted and influenced her, including Quincy Jones, Gayle King, and Stedman Graham. She also touted the importance of a free press that is currently “under siege,” echoing last year’s winner, Meryl Streep, who dedicated the majority of her speech to elegantly slamming Donald Trump (without ever saying his name).
Winfrey then began speaking about the current reckoning sweeping through Hollywood, celebrating the #MeToo movement. “I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue,” she said.
This year’s Golden Globes has been an unusual one, thanks to the ongoing conversation about sexual abuse towards women in the film industry and beyond. In response to that, nearly all of the night’s attendees wore black to the ceremony, while many actresses—including Witherspoon, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and more—brought activists as their dates to the ceremony, such as Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, tennis icon Billie Jean King, and Ai-jen Poo, the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Winfrey made sure to fully nod to the inspiring tone of the night, devoting much of her speech to Recy Taylor—who died just 10 days ago, but has been acknowledged by Hollywood recently thanks to a new documentary about her attack titled The Rape of Recy Taylor. “The men who tried to destroy her were never prosecuted,” Winfrey explained—but she added that she hopes Taylor died with an understanding about the newly galvanized front against sexual predators. “Their time is up,” Winfrey said, earning a standing ovation.
In her introduction, Witherspoon praised Winfrey for being an inspiring force, waxing on about how the duo spent endless hours together getting their complicated makeup done for the upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time. “If you can find a way to be stuck in a small space with Oprah for four hours, do it,” Witherspoon joked. “I learned everything from how to make the best English muffin to what it’s like being the only woman at a huge company.”
She also, of course, praised the star’s immaculate hugs. “Oprah’s hugs could end wars, solve world peace . . . it’s that good,” Witherspoon gushed. “When she hugs you, it’s the greatest thing ever. Just ask Gayle [King], she’ll agree.”
Here is Winfrey’s full speech below:
“Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mom’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor . . . she opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: the winner is Sidney Poitier. Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that . . . I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses . . . But all I can say is quote “amen, amen.”
In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille ward right here . . . it’s not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given the same award. It is an honor. It is an honor, and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and the the incredible men and women who’ve inspired me, who’ve challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for AM Chicago. Quincy Jones, who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg yes, she is Sofia in the Color Purple. Gayle who has been the definition of what a friend is. Stedman, who’s been my rock. Just a few to name.
I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know the press is under siege today, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps ups from turning a blind eye to corruption and injustice to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this. What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell. And this year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, and workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they, like, my mother had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants, and academia and engineering and tech and politics and business.
For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.
And there’s someone else. Recy Taylor. A name I know and I think you should, too. In 1942, Recy Taylor was a young wife and a mother. She was just walking home from a church service she’d attended in Alabama when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left by the side of the road. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone. But her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case. They sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th bday. She lived, as we all lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Your time is up. And I just hope, I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’s heart almost 11 years later when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery. And it’s here with every women who chooses to say ‘Me too.’ And every man who chooses to listen. In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do whether on television or film is to say something about how men and women really behave. Just say how we expereience shame . . . how we fail, retreat, persevere, and how we overcome.
A new day is on the horizon! But when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight and some phenomenal men who are fighting hard to make sure they . . . leaders who take us to the time when nobody has to say me too again. Thank you.”