Oprah Winfrey made history tonight as the first black woman to be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award since its inception in 1952.
In her speech, she recognized Sidney Poitier for paving the way for black actors.
“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards,” she recalled.
“She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history. ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier,’” she continued. “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. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that.”
“There are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given the same award. It is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them…”
The honor, which recognizes “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” has been awarded to only four black actors and just 15 women in its 66-year history.
Winfrey joined the ranks of icons such as Joan Crawford, Poitier, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Morgan Freeman, Audrey Hepburn, Denzel Washington, Barbra Streisand and, most recently, Meryl Streep.
Winfrey, 63, has had a long career in the entertainment industry. She hosted “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for more than two decades, founded “O, The Oprah Magazine” and launched a successful cable network, “OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.”
She’s also had a successful film career, receiving a Golden Globe nomination in 1985 for “The Color Purple” and an Emmy nod for her role in HBO Films’ “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
In recent years Winfrey has appeared in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-winning “Selma” and she will appear next in DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”