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Black Facts for November 13th

1955 - Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg is a celebrated American actress, comedian and human rights advocate. She was born as Caryn Elaine Johnson on November 13, 1955, in New York City and was raised by a single mother in a housing project of Manhattan. Her father abandoned the family and her mother struggled to raise Whoopi and her younger brother Clyde, working a variety of jobs to keep the family afloat. She dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and got heavily addicted to drugs. She checked into rehab at the age of 17 and cleaned up her act. There she met her first husband with whom she had her only child – a daughter named Alexandria. The marriage didn’t last long, and Whoopi moved to California with her daughter with the intention of pursuing a career in show business. Adopting the stage name of Whoopi Goldberg, she became one of the founders of the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

Whoopi began to write comedic monologues and made a name for herself as a stand-up comedian. She toured America with her act called “The Spook Show” which showcased her natural talent for whacky and dramatic humor. Her act caught the attention of the film director Mike Nichols who converted her one woman act into a Broadway play. The show was so popular that all 156 shows were sold out and Whoopi established herself as one of the most celebrated actresses in New York. This brought her to the notice of the legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg who cast her in the leading role of his next movie. The movie was called “The Color Purple” and it was an adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The film was a huge success, winning 11 Oscar nominations including the nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Whoopi. She did not win the Oscar, but took home a Golden Globe Award.

Her next major Hollywood role was that of Oda Mae Brown in the film “Ghost” – also starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The film was a phenomenal success and earned Whoopi an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making her the second African American to

1993 - (1993) William J. Clinton, “The Freedom to Die"

On November 13, 1993, President Bill Clinton traveled to Memphis to address 5,000 African American ministers at the national headquarters of the Church of God in Christ.  Speaking from the pulpit where in 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his last sermon, Clinton used the occasion to urge the ministers to celebrate the King legacy and to continue to fight for the goals Dr. King had pursued until his untimely death.  The Clinton speech, which specifically addressed the problem of crime and violence in black America, appears below.  

By THE GRACE OF GOD and your help, last year, I was elected President of this great country. I never dreamed that I would ever have a chance to come to this hallowed place where Martin Luther King gave his last sermon. I ask you to think today about the purpose for which I ran and the purpose for which so many of you worked to put me in this great office. I have worked hard to keep faith with our common efforts-to restore the economy, to reverse the politics of helping only those at the top of our totem pole and not the hard-working middle class or the poor, to bring our people together across racial and regional and political lines, to make a strength out of our diversity instead of letting it tear us apart, to reward work and family and community, and try to move us forward into the 21st Century.

I have tried to keep faith. Thirteen percent of all my presidential appointments are African Americans and there are five African Americans in the Cabinet of the United States-two-and-a-half times as many as have ever served in the history of this great land.

I have sought to advance the right to vote with the Motor-Voter Bill supported so strongly by all the churches in our country. And next week, it will be my great honor to sign the Restoration of Religious Freedoms Act-a bill supported widely by people across all religions and political philosophies, to put back the real meaning of the Constitution, to give you and every other American the freedom to do what is most important in

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1995 - Gordone, Charles (1925- )

Charles Gordone was born Charles Edward Fleming on October 12, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio to parents William and Camille Fleming.  He took his stepfather’s surname of Gordon when his mother remarried when he was five years old.  The family moved to Elkhart, Indiana, his mother’s hometown, when Charles was very young.  After graduating from high school in Indiana, Gordon moved to Los Angeles.  In 1942 he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he spent one semester before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps. Gordon served two years in the Air Corps’ Special Services where he was an organizer of entertainment.

He returned to Los Angeles after his discharge in 1944 and studied music at Los Angeles City College before moving on to California State University, Los Angeles where he earned a B.A. in drama in 1952.  Upon graduation, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.  It was in New York that Gordon added the “e” to his surname because he spotted another Charles Gordon on the Actors’ Equity membership list.  During the late 1950s, Gordone began directing as well as acting. He founded his own theatre, Vantage, in Queens, New York in the late 1950s.  In 1962, Gordone also founded the Committee for the Employment of Negroes, an organization designed to lobby for more employment opportunities for blacks in theatre.  

Charles Gordone won an Obie (an award given to off-Broadway productions) for his performance in an all-black production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in 1964. Between acting and directing jobs, Gordone worked as a waiter in a Greenwich Village tavern.  His experiences there inspired him to write his most famous play No Place to be Somebody.  The play opened off Broadway at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre in May of 1969 to rave reviews, and made Gordone an instant celebrity.  Over the next two years the play would be performed over 900 times off-Broadway, before moving to the Morosco Theatre on Broadway in 1971. No Place to Be Somebody won the

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