Oprah Winfrey’s mother dies at 83

Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, died at the age of 83 on Thanksgiving in her Milwaukee, Wisconsin home.

According to previous accounts from Winfrey, her mother did not have a conventional relationship while she was growing up. Lee gave birth to Winfrey as a teenager and many hardships followed after her birth.

Lee could not effectively raise her daughter until the age of 6. This was because Lee lived in the era of heavy segregation in Mississippi, and had to move to Wisconsin to work as a housemaid, according to TMZ.

Lee struggled heavily with racism and prejudice in the south, but she tried her best to make money to take care of not only herself but her new daughter. Obtaining a career was not simple for a woman of color in the 1940s and 1950s, and Lee was no exception to this.

Since Lee was only a teenager when she gave birth to Winfrey, she had to make significant sacrifices for her family.

Because of this, Winfrey was raised in Mississippi by her maternal grandmother from birth until the age of six. Winfrey then moved to Wisconsin to live with her mother whom she barely knew.

The relationship between Winfrey and Lee was unstable at first due to the separation, but later in life it was repaired.

Winfrey had her mother on her show in which she was given a makeover in 1990, according to Oprah.com.

“Oprah gave her mother, Vernita Lee, the official Oprah Show treatment with a gorgeous makeover from Oprah’s longtime stylist, Andre Walker. Watch this one-of-a-kind mother-daughter moment,” according to Oprah.com. 

According to Jezebel, Lee’s family is asking for donations to Feeding America made in Vernita Lee’s name.

Since the family is not in need of donations themselves, they are pushing toward a cause that Vernita Lee found important in her life.

According to Feeding America, they are the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. They work together with individuals, charities, businesses and government to end hunger.

There has already been a private funeral held for Vernita Lee’s death where family and close friends attended.

Winfrey’s influence on the world is immense, and she has affected many people. Her mother’s passing was not simple for her.

“She [Winfrey] is such a happy and giving person and I feel like she sets a good example for people by giving back to those in need. I think she is really an inspiration to everyone,” said Corie Gleason, forensic chemistry major. 

Winfrey would not be the inspirational person she is today without her past experiences. Although hard at times, especially in the early years of her life, her relationship with her mother truly shaped her to be who she is today.

Four days following Winfrey’s mother’s passing, Winfrey shared a photo of her family on Instagram.

“Thank you all for your kind words and condolences regarding my mother Vernita Lee’s passing. It gives our family great comfort knowing she lived a good life and is now at Peace,” Winfrey said in an Instagram post.