Caryn Elaine Johnson, better known as Whoopi Goldberg, is famous for her Hollywood roles. Less well appreciated is her political activism. The American comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, author and talk show host made her film debut in The Color Purple. She played Celie, a black woman living in the southern United States in the 1930s. Many drew parallels between America’s past racial discrimination and South Africa’s apartheid. Goldberg received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won her first Golden Globe Award for her role in the film. She was also the first African-American woman ever to host the Academy Awards.
In 1992, she appeared in the South African film, Sarafina, which depicted students involved in the Soweto riots. It was shot entirely on location in Soweto.
Goldberg took part in Mandela’s 70th birthday internationally filmed celebrations, an attempt to embarrass South Africa into releasing their most famous prisoner. When she came on stage, she quite happily revealed that all the acts were being told to avoid saying anything political.