The legendary actress, poet and playwright passed away at the New Rochelle, New York she had shared with her beloved husband Ossie Davis for over four decades.
The legendary actress was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, but raised in Harlem after her parents separated. She found her calling while studying at Hunter College and joined the American Negro Theater.
Dee met her soon-to-be husband, Ossie Davis, in 1945, while rehearsing for the Broadway production of Jeb. They married in 1948. Davis passed away in 2005.
“One thing is certain: The best of me has been subsidized by the best of what you are. I have no hungers that you do not feed,” Dee said of her husband of 57 years.
“The idea that a good marriage is made in heaven and swung down on a golden cord like a gift from God did not coincide with my lifelong observations, Dee told ESSENCE.com. “Yes the wedding can be a beautiful and exciting, expensive event, or it can be a handshake, or a jump over a broom,
but it is just that – an event, the one that precedes the marriage.”
Dee and Davis’ personal lives went hand in hand with their professional lives. They starred in countless productions on stage and screen. Here, they are pictured on the set of Go Down, Moses, which featured Dee as Harriet Tubman and Davis as John Ross in July 22, 1963.
Dee and Davis were also staunch civil rights activists, standing on the front lines with organizations like the NAACP, and figures like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here, Dee is pictured at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 where Dr. King delivered his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
Dee is pictured on the set of Roots The Next Generation in 1979.
Dee is pictured with her family, son Guy, granddaughter Ihsanna Muhammad, and daughter Dr. Hasna Muhammad Davis at home.
Dee lost her beloved husband in 2005. “You spread your spirit over me, too, like a warm blanket on a cold night,” said Dee of Davis in the forthcoming documentary of their love.
The pioneer played a large role in African American history. She was an active member of the Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Here she attends the The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross screening at The Paris Theatre in New York City.
Ruby Dee as Cora Sanders in Police Woman, Season 1 for NBC.
In 1959 Ruby Dee starred as Ruth Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Arguably her most famous performance, the play ran on Broadway for 530 performances and was turned into a film in 1961.
After moving from Cleveland to Harlem with her family as a child, the actress remained a life-long resident of New York. Here she is attending a celebration at Melba’s restaurant in New York City.
“The largest piece of unfinished business before humankind is, in our opinion, poverty, spiritual as well as material,” Ms. Dee wrote in With Ossie and Ruby. “Racism, yes, and sexism, too; unemployment, drugs, child abuse, black boys too much in prison — oh, yes, Struggle is all there is, and we are still committed.”
Ruby Dee poses with the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role for her work in American Gangster at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles
Ruby’s first marriage was in 1941 to Freddie Dee Brown, a distillery worker. The marriage only lasted four years but she kept the “Dee” for a lifetime.
In 2007, Ruby Dee’s role in the film American Gangster garnered her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
Ruby Dee recieved many awards for her work over the years including the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. Here she recieves Beacon of Change Award before the Civil Rights Game at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee.