Rev. Al Sharpton is considered to be one of the most prominent — and controversial — civil rights leaders of our time. On Sunday’s episode of “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” he sits down with Oprah for a revealing conversation about what was lying beneath his anger.
“So were you, for a very long time, an angry black man?” Oprah asks in the above video.
“Oh, I was very angry,” Rev. Sharpton says. “And I was angry not only at society. I was angry at my father. I was angry at some of my mentors.”
Rev. Sharpton was raised in Brooklyn by his homemaker mother, Ada, and his father, Alfred Sharpton Sr., a contractor who invested in real estate. Rev. Sharpton was 9 years old when his father had an affair with his older half-sister, Ernestine, his mother’s daughter from a previous marriage. After Ernestine became pregnant, his father abandoned the family to marry her.
“I felt if I hadn’t lived a middle-class life and then went to the ‘hood, I might not have been as angry,” Rev. Sharpton says. “But I felt robbed. I felt that I had the right life and y’all took it from me for no reason 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.”
“And some of that anger is what we saw in your protests?” Oprah asks.
“A lot of that anger was exercising protests,” he says. “And exercising a lot of things in life. Because I never stopped and really analyzed and admitted to myself — where is all this anger? When you wake up mad — I mean, nothing’s even happened yet. You’re just mad when you wake up. You look at the pillow mad.”
“At some point, you’ve got to stop and say, ‘What am I so angry about?'” Rev. Sharpton says. “Because you never really dealt with this pain inside.”