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Oprah Winfrey's emotional first look at Smithsonian exhibit honoring her legacy

Oprah's first look at Smithsonian exhibit
Oprah Winfrey's emotional first look at "Watching Oprah" Smithsonian exhibit 07:41

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is opening a new exhibit this week called "Watching Oprah." It is a celebration of Oprah Winfrey's legacy. "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King – and best friend to Winfrey – previewed the 4,300-square-foot exhibit with her and the museum's director Lonnie Bunch on Wednesday.

"How many people are alive who get exhibits?" That's what  Winfrey asked King as the two walked through her new Smithsonian exhibition for the very first time. It showcases the artists that shaped her and the culture she changed forever. Winfrey is receiving this rare honor for her extraordinary impact on the millions of viewers around the world who tuned in weekly for more than two decades.

Oprah Winfrey, museum director Lonnie Bunch and "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King look at footage from early on in Winfrey's career.  CBS News

Below are some of the moments from their tour:

"Born at the right time"

Winfrey was born in 1954 -- the year of the landmark Supreme Court school case Brown v. Board of Education.

"I often say this. I was born at the right time. I was born when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, even though things didn't turn around immediately, it was a sense of hope and change," Winfrey said. 

"Basically what we've got here is how the world shaped you. So we really frame the Civil Rights era," museum director Lonnie Bunch explained. "What I love though is to both give people the sense of how you were not only shaped by that, but also how you were shaped by the media." 

The exhibit features a page from Oprah Winfrey's journal  CBS News

A page from Oprah's journal

The exhibit features a page from Winfrey's journal written the night before "The Oprah Winfrey Show" made its national debut. 

"Exactly eight hours before the national first show. I keep wondering how my life will change. If it will change. What all this means. Why have I been so blessed? Maybe going national was to help me realize that I have an important work or that this work is important. I just know  that I must be pressed to the work of the high calling," Winfrey read from the entry.  

"You wrote that the night before? That's what you were thinking?" King remarked. What she would have written? "Hope it works."

You get a car! 

Perhaps the most iconic episode from "The Oprah Winfrey Show" features its host surprising an entire studio audience with the keys to brand new cars. The moment has become a pop culture staple, immortalized by countless memes and gifs. 

"I do remember the night before you were trying to decide what to wear," King recalled. 

"I wanted a color that would match the bows on the car," Winfrey said. "There was a lot of thought put in that." 

Oprah Winfrey and Lonnie Bunch  CBS News

Inspiring the next generation

"Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King inspired my decision to become a journalist," King read from a book with messages from visitors to the exhibit. 

Another reads, "Oprah brought my family together, we would all crowd around the TV to watch a woman do what we could only dream of doing. She gave me hope. That I too can be on TV, a strong black woman like her."

And the message that made Winfrey want to cry: "Oprah Winfrey is the reason I love myself so fiercely and know that my voice matters."

"The bottom line is, this was your gift and our gift to America. And so we want to thank you for doing just that. It means a lot to us," Bunch said. 

The "Watching Oprah" exhibit opens to the public on Friday, June 8.

Gayle King's emotional reflection on "Watching Oprah" exhibit 01:54
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