Today, we lost another legendary performer when it was announced that Ruby Dee passed away at the age of 91. Over her eight decade career, Dee left behind an indelible contribution that will not be soon forgotten.
Dee was a great many things to the public, an actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and activist. To those who knew her, she also was a mother of three children and a devoted wife to her husband, Ossie Davis for over 50 years.
Raised in Harlem, Dee gained notoriety for her work on the stage before her big break in 1950, when she starred opposite the Brooklyn trailblazer Jackie Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story. Also that year, she starred opposite her friend and frequent co-star, Sidney Poitier in his film debut, No Way Out. The two would play husband and wife in three more films, Edge of the City, A Raisin in the Sun, and Buck and the Preacher, during their life-long association.
She was also a devoted activist, who used her influence to champion the cause of civil rights and equality during the turbulent 1960’s. During that decade, Dee appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.
A woman who walked to the beat of her own drummer, she married Davis in 1948 and together, they documented their lifestyle choices in their autobiography in which they discussed their political activism and their open marriage. The two were also well-known civil rights activists. Dee was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Dee and Davis were both personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965.
But it was as an actress that Dee shined, showcasing her talents in a multitude of winning roles including Uptight, Take A Giant Step, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and later in her Oscar-nominated performance in American Gangster.
Dee, who made her film debut in 1946 and continued to work until her last film in 2013, spent 67 years making films – by far the longest career of any African-American actor. She was the recipient of a Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards as well as the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Congratulations to a life well-lived and now is the time to reunite with the love your life, Mr. Ossie Davis. Thank you for your vast contribution; you truly left this planet a better place than when you entered!!!
Check out a gallery of images from the life of Ruby Dee below: