In a sleepy southern town, an unexpectedly violent scene: a mob of angry whites chanted racially charged slogans on one side, while equally incensed counter-protesters advocated for civil rights on the other side. National headlines, decades-old grievances and the nation’s deepest racial wounds were on display.
Talk of “the start of the white civil rights movement” filled the air as America’s liberals warily evaluated the appeal of a revanchist white supremacist movement that would bring the likes of David Duke to the national stage.
Thirty years before the clashes in Charlottesville, this was Forsyth County, Georgia, after a series of protests over the region’s long legacy of racist violence and de facto segregation that brought national media attention. And then, as today, an ascendant media figure inserted herself into that morass in an attempt to create understanding where there seemed to be laughably little hope of it—Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey’s segment, filmed on location in Forsyth County, was more of a ratings success than a true healing moment. But that hasn’t dissuaded her, America’s premiere therapist, cultural interlocutor and spiritual guide (to name just a few of her distinctions), from turning her eye to our most politically sensitive topics time and again over her now four-decades-long career in broadcasting.