Year
1955

Whoopi Goldberg born

On this day in 1955, the actress, comedian and talk-show host Whoopi Goldberg is born in New York City. Goldberg earned an Oscar nomination for her Hollywood feature debut in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple (1985) and went on become the first-ever solo female host of the Academy Awards.

Born Caryn Johnson, Goldberg dropped out of high school, battled drug addiction, married at the age of 18, and had a daughter. In the mid-1970s, she moved to California and became involved in theater and stand-up comedy. She eventually developed a one-woman show of character monologues called The Spook Show and began touring the country. Renamed Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Mike Nichols, the show played to sold-out audiences on Broadway from 1984 to 1985. The director Steven Spielberg then cast Goldberg as Celie in The Color Purple, his big-screen adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel about an African-American woman growing up in the South during the early- to mid-1900s. The film received 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actress nod for Goldberg. She went on to star in films such as Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986) and Clara’s Heart (1988). She also continued to perform stand-up comedy, including a series of Comic Relief television benefits with her friends and fellow comics Billy Crystal and Robin Williams to raise money for organizations that help the homeless.

Goldberg won her first Oscar, in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her role as psychic Oda Mae Brown in the 1990 blockbuster Ghost, co-starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. (Goldberg was just the second African-American to collect the Best Supporting Actress award. The first, Hattie McDaniel, won for her performance in 1939’s Gone With the Wind.) In 1992, Goldberg scored another box-office hit with Sister Act, in which she played a nightclub singer hiding out in a convent from the mob. During the 1990s, Goldberg also appeared in such films as Robert Altman’s movie-business parody The Player (1992); Made in America (1993), with her one-time paramour Ted Danson; Corrina, Corrina (1994), with Ray Liotta; Boys on the Side (1995), with Drew Barrymore and Mary-Louise Parker; and Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), about the trial of the assassinated civil-rights leader Medgar Evers. The dreadlocked entertainment dynamo had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1988 to 1993 and hosted her own talk show from 1992 to 1993.

In 1994, Goldberg became the first-ever solo female host of the Academy Awards, a job she repeated to largely positive reviews in 1996, 1999 and 2002. In September 2007, she signed on as a moderator of the daytime chatfest The View, taking over for the frequently controversial Rosie O’Donnell, who left the show. In addition to her TV and film work, Goldberg has continued to act and produce on Broadway.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

East Pakistan devastated by cylcone

Tidal waves and storm surges strike the shores of the Ganges Delta, wreaking lethal damage on the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). A 100-mph tropical cyclone spurred the deadly flood of ocean water that washed over scores of coastal islands and devastated the densely ...read more

First presidential tour concludes

George Washington, inaugurated as the first president of the United States in April, returns to Washington at the end of his first presidential tour.For four weeks, Washington traveled by stagecoach through New England, visiting all the northern states that had ratified the U.S. ...read more

The eruption of Nevado del Ruiz

Nevado del Ruiz, the highest active volcano in the Andes Mountains of Colombia, suffers a mild eruption that generates a series of lava flows and surges over the volcano’s broad ice-covered summit. Flowing mixtures of water, ice, pumice, and other rock debris poured off the ...read more

President receives optimistic reports

President Lyndon Johnson is briefed on the situation in Vietnam by Gen. William Westmoreland, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, and Robert W. Komer, the head of the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program. They painted an optimistic picture that led Johnson to ...read more

Darryl Dawkins breaks his first backboard

On November 13, 1979, in the middle of a game at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins leaps over Kansas City Kings forward Bill Robinzine and slam-dunks the basketball, shattering the fiberglass backboard. The result, according to ...read more

Ballinger-Pinchot scandal erupts

The Ballinger-Pinchot scandal erupts when Colliers magazine accuses Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger of shady dealings in Alaskan coal lands. It is, in essence, a conflict rooted in contrasting ideas about how to best use and conserve western natural ...read more

Robert Louis Stevenson is born

On this day in 1850, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is born in Scotland.Stevenson studied civil engineering and law, but decided to pursue a career as a writer and began publishing essays and travel pieces. His decision alienated ...read more

Tidal wave ravages East Pakistan

An immense tidal wave and storm surge caused by a powerful cyclone kills over 200,000 people in East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh, on this day in 1970. The delta area where the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal is particularly vulnerable to this type ...read more

McClellan snubs Lincoln

On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln pays a late night visit to General George McClellan, who Lincoln had recently named general in chief of the Union army. The general retired to his chambers before speaking with the president.This was the most famous example of ...read more

Patriots take Montreal

On this day in 1775, Continental Army Brigadier General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal, Canada, without opposition.Montgomery’s victory owed its success in part to Ethan Allen’s disorganized defeat at the hand of British General and Canadian Royal Governor Guy Carleton at ...read more

Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated

Near the end of a weeklong national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall ...read more

Congress revises the Neutrality Act

On this day in 1941, the United States Congress amends the Neutrality Act of 1935 to allow American merchant ships access to war zones, thereby putting U.S. vessels in the line of fire.In anticipation of another European war, and in pursuit of an isolationist foreign policy, ...read more