A lifelong activist, Woodard was named to the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities by President Barack Obama.
"She has touched countless people through her wonderful artistic talent. But she has not forgotten her core values. In fact, she has used her fame and fortune to continue the fight for human rights and social justice, not just in the United States but around the world.”
- Pat Connelly
Alfre Woodard was born in Tulsa, the youngest of three children to Constance, a homemaker, and Marion H. Woodard, an interior designer. A former high school cheerleader and track star, she caught the acting bug after being persuaded to audition for a school play. She went on to study acting at Boston University and enjoyed a brief stint on Broadway before moving to Los Angeles, California. Her first break came in 1978 with Remember My Name.
In addition to being named one of the Most Beautiful People in America by People magazine, her work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, Emmy Awards, Emmy nominations, SAG awards and a Golden Globe.
Her Emmy nominations include Outstanding Supporting Actress as Ouiser Boudreaux in the Lifetime remake of Steel Magnolias and for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series on the HBO show, True Blood. Woodard’s illustrious body of work includes her Oscar nominated performance in Martin Ritt’s Cross Creek; Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon; John Sayles’ Passion Fish; Joseph Sargent’s Miss Evers’ Boys, for which she won an Emmy, SAG and Golden Globe Award; Spike Lee’s Crooklyn; Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love and Basketball; Tyler Perry’s The Family that Preys; Maya Angelou’s Down in the Delta; and Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave in the role of Mistress Harriet Shaw. In November, 2014, she began starring in the NBC drama series, State of Affairs.
Her relationship with Nelson Mandela began in 1987 when she played Winnie Mandela in HBO’s Mandela. Later, Woodard directed and produced, Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales, which won the 2010 Audiobook of the Year, and garnered a 2010 GRAMMY Award nomination for “Best Children’s Spoken Word Album.”
In addition to her acting career, Woodard is a longtime activist. She co-founded Artists for a New South Africa, a nonprofit working to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and further the cause of democracy and human rights in South Africa. She served on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. She works with several under-performing public schools that have flourished with the Turnaround Arts program and has traveled with a delegation of film artists to Iran and East Africa with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.