Goldberg's recent ancestors migrated north from Faceville, Georgia, Palatka, Florida, and Virginia. Part of her ancestry is to the Papel and Bayote people of modern-day Guinea-Bissau. Her admixture test indicates that she is 92 percent of sub-Saharan African origin and 8 percent of European origin.
Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Elaine Johnson on November 13, 1955, in New York City's Manhattan borough, New York, United States. She is the daughter of Robert James Johnson Jr., a Baptist clergyman, and Emma Johnson, a nurse, and teacher. She was raised in the Chelsea-Elliot Houses. Goldberg has described her mother as a "stern, strong, and wise woman" who raised her as a single mother with her brother Clyde, who died of a brain aneurysm.
Goldberg was acting in children's plays with the Hudson Guild Theater at the age of eight and throughout the rest of her childhood immersed herself in movies, sometimes watching three or four a day.