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Rev. Sharpton Talks About His Role As A Civil Rights Activist and How It Has Evolved

Oprah Winfrey with Rev. Al Sharpton
(Photo Credit: © Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns)

Los Angeles, CA – Oprah Winfrey sits down with Rev. Al Sharpton on an all-new episode of “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” airing this Sunday, November 17 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. 

In the episode, Oprah sits down with Rev. Sharpton for an open and revealing conversation about race in America, how his role as a civil rights activist has shifted and the moment that changed his life. They also discuss his new book, "The Rejected Stone," what drives him to stand up for causes he believes in and his dramatic weightloss.  Later, his daughters Ashley and Dominique join the conversation in their first interview together to share their perspective on how their father has shaped their lives and their plans for the future.

EXCERPT: How Rev. Al Sharpton Found His Calling at 4 Years Old

WINFREY:  When did you know or feel that you had the calling to be a preacher?

REV. SHARPTON:  I was four. There was a Junior Usher Board and we were having our anniversary.

REV. SHARPTON:  And my -- the lady that was the senior advisor, her name was Hazel Griffin. I still remember.  And she sat us all down, about 30 of us.  What do you all want to do on program? I said, preach.  She says -- all the kids are laughing.  I said I want to preach.  And she said, don't laugh.  And she took me to the bishop and he said, well, I started preaching as a kid.  And they let me preach.  And that anniversary there's about 900 people there and they stood me on a box and I preached from St. John's the 14th chapter, first verse, let not your heart be troubled.  And I've been preaching ever since.

EXCERPT: Why Was Rev. Al Sharpton Angry For So Many Years?

WINFREY:  So were you, for a very long time, an angry black man?

REV. SHARPTON:  Oh, I was very angry.  And I was angry not only at society.  I was angry at my father.  I was angry at some of my mentors.  I felt, you know, if I hadn't lived a middle class life and then went to the 'hood, I might not have been as angry.  But I felt robbed.


REV. SHARPTON:  I felt if I had the right life and y'all took it from me for no reason.

WINFREY:  Mm-hmm.

REV. SHARPTON:  And then humiliated my mother.  My mother went from having a new Cadillac every year to scrubbing floors so I'd have a suit to wear to church on Sunday.  I was mad about that.

WINFREY:  Mm-hmm.

REV. SHARPTON:  I was mad about that.

WINFREY:  And some of that anger is what we saw in your protests.

REV. SHARPTON:  A lot of that anger was exercising protests.


REV. SHARPTON:  And exercising a lot of things in life.  Because I never stopped and really analyzed and admitted to myself where is all this anger?  I mean, when you wake up mad

WINFREY:  (Laughter.)

REV. SHARPTON: I mean, nothing's even happened yet.  You're just mad when you wake up. You look at the pillow mad.  I mean --

WINFREY:  (Laughter.)

REV. SHARPTON: At some point you've got to stop and say, what am I so angry about?


REV. SHARPTON:  Because you never really dealt with this pain inside.

EXCERPT: The Moment That Changed Rev. Al Sharpton's Life Forever

REV. SHARPTON:  Well, I was already preaching in churches.  We were living in Queens, Hollis, Queens, which was at that time like the suburbs.

WINFREY:  Not just -- not just preaching in churches but I love the story of you would -- your mama made you a pulpit in the basement.


WINFREY:  And you'd line up your sister's dolls and preach to them.

REV. SHARPTON:  I'd line the dolls up.

WINFREY:  You were born to preach.

REV. SHARPTON:  That was the best congregation I ever had.  Not much of an offering but they never complained. So I had this idyllic suburban -- I would have grown up to be the nice middle class black bourgeois league that I would attack later in life.  That's where I was.

WINFREY:  That's where you were headed.

REV. SHARPTON:  That's where I was headed.

WINFREY:  Your father owned his own business.

REV. SHARPTON:  Owned about 23 buildings in Brooklyn.


REV. SHARPTON: I wake up one morning, he's gone.  And not only is he gone, my oldest sister from my mother's first marriage.

WINFREY:  How old was she?

REV. SHARPTON:  She was around 18.


REV. SHARPTON:  Left with him and they had a child.  And then they came and took my sister to live with them. 


About Oprah’s Next Chapter:

“Oprah’s Next Chapter” is the award-winning primetime series featuring Oprah Winfrey as she steps outside of the studio for riveting, enlightening and in-depth conversations with newsmakers, celebrities, thought leaders and real-life families. “Oprah’s Next Chapter” is produced by Harpo Studios.  Join the conversation on Twitter using #NextChapter.




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