Oprah Winfrey says she was inspired to help the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting as they fight for stronger gun control because their dedication reminded her of the civil rights movement.
“The fact that they were creating this national march to say, ‘enough’ … what it takes to risk that on a national level is what I responded to,” Winfrey tells CNN’s Van Jones on “The Van Jones Show,” which airs at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on CNN.
Winfrey announced last month she was donating $500,000 to the March for Our Lives, the March 24 demonstration in Washington planned by survivors of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.
Winfrey told Jones that it was the Parkland activists’ strength and confidence in taking their cause public that reminded her of those who fought against racial injustice in the 1950s and ’60s. The teenagers’ bravery, she said, resonated with her, given some of the sacrifices her family made during the civil rights era.
“My grandfather took in people from the Freedom Riders in Mississippi and risked his whole family and home. Because if people found out that he was keeping the Freedom Riders in his house? You know, he would have been gone,” she told Jones.
Like the Florida students, Winfrey noted that young people also played a role in the civil rights movement such US Rep. John Lewis. The future Democratic congressman from Georgia was beaten by police in the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
“There hasn’t been a darker time, I believe, for our people, other than slavery, than what was going on in the civil rights movement. And the young people, like the John Lewises of the world, said, ‘No more. Enough. Find another way,’ ” she said.
Winfrey said she has advised the young activists pushing for gun control to think about their long-term strategy to achieve their goals.
“You can’t just go out there and march,” she said. “There has to be a very clear intention behind what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
As an example, Winfrey pointed out that by the time Rosa Parks “sat down on that bus, they had been planning that for a very long time,” referring to the civil rights activist’s arrest when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955.
As for anyone today aspiring to have an impact like Parks or Lewis, Winfrey said she made her donation to ensure that young activists without financial means would still be able to attend the March for Our Lives in Washington.
“I wanted to be able to bring kids from all over the country who wouldn’t be able to afford to get to the march. That’s what I wanted to do,” she said.