Actress, playwright, civil rights activist, journalist, poet, all these and more combined to make Ruby Dee a force to be reckoned with. Born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1922, her family moved to New York’s Harlem when she was a child.
She began acting in New York in the 1940’s Her first onscreen appearance was in the 1946 musical “That Man of Mine.” But it was her role as Rachel Robinson in “The Jackie Robinson Story” that brought her national attention.
Though she made numerous films those she will be most remembered for included “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961), “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “American Gangster” (2007).
“The members of the African American Film Critics Association are deeply saddened at the loss of actress and humanitarian Ruby Dee,” said Robertson. “Throughout her seven-decade career, Ms. Dee embraced different creative platforms with her various interpretations of black womanhood and also used her gifts to champion for Human Rights. Her strength, courage and beauty will be greatly missed.”
Dee was as much a presence on the New York stage as she was in films. She joined the American Negro Theatre in 1941 and made her Broadway debut in “South Pacific” in 1943. She would go on to star opposite Ossie Davis in 1946 in the play “Jeb,” and the two were married two years later. A marriage that would span over five decades till Davis’s death in 2005.
“We shared a great deal in common; we didn’t have any distractions as to where we stood in society. We were black activists. We had a common understanding.”
As an activist she knew them all and was a close friend to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Her and her family often appeared at Civil Rights protests and she was an active member in the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 2005 both Dee and Davis received the National Civil Rights Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Freedom award.
Ruby Dee passed away June 12th at her home in New Rochelle, NY. She is survived by three children, Guy Davis, Hasna Muhammad Davis and Nora Day Davis and seven grandchildren. She was 91.