Actress and Activist Ruby Dee Dies at 91

By Julissa Catalan


Ruby Deethe actress whose career spanned over 70 years as both an award-winning film and stage star as well as a civil-rights activistdied at the age of 91 last week at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Her film credits include The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), her breakout role alongside Sidney Poitier in A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Buck and the Preacher (1972), Do the Right Thing (1989), Jungle Fever (1991) and American Gangster (2007).

Dee met fellow actor and future husband Ossie Davis in 1946 while acting in the Broadway play Jeb. Together they starred in five playsand 11 films, including Do the Right Thing.

For their 50th anniversary, Dee and Davis wrote a joint biographyWith Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Togetherin which she wrote, “It felt almost like an appointment we finally got around to keeping,” when talking about the day they married.

Their partnership also translated off-screen as leaders of the civil-rights movement, including the 1963 March on Washington where they served as masters of ceremonies.

Dee called Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. friends. She spoke at both of their funerals.

In 1999, Dee and Davis were arrested for protesting outside of a New York City police headquarters against the police shooting of an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo.

Dee said the shooting “reminds me of when there were lynchings all over the country.”

In 2004, Dee and Davis were honored by the Kennedy Center.

The two also served on the board of the Apollo Theater, where they had an award named in their honor, The Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis Arts & Humanitarian Award, given to deserving couples who promote the arts and community.

Ossie Davis died in 2005 at the age of 87.

In 2007, Dee was nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in American Gangster. Dee won an Emmy in 1991 for her performance in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Decoration Day.

“Throughout her remarkable performances, Ruby paved the way for generations of Black actors and actresses, and inspired African-American women across our country,” President Obama said.

First Lady Michelle Obama, meanwhile, took to Twitter to express her sadness, saying:

Director and friend Spike Lee said on Instagram: “I’m crushed by this bad news and I know Ruby has already been embraced in a warm, loving hug from her life partner of 57 yearsMr. Ossie Davis. It has been one of my great blessings in life to work with two of the finest artists and activistsRuby and Ossie were in the battlefields.

“Ruby and Ossie served as a living example that one could be an artist and activist too. The both of you told us, ‘To always do the right thing.'”

Dee was born in Cleveland in 1922. Her birth name was Ruby Ann Wallace. She took the surname Dee after her brief marriage to blues singer Frankie Dee.

Dee is survived by her three children with Ossie Davis: Guy Davis, Hasna Muhammad Davis and Nora Day Davis.

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