Yesterday, Ruby Dee, born in Cleveland OH in 1922, passed away. The actress, poet, playwright and civil-rights activist was married to Ossie Davis, who died in 2005.
Ruby's film, stage and television career spanned 8 decades, collecting Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards along the way. In 2007, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mama Lucas in American Gangster.
Ruby Dee will probably be most remembered for her performance in the movie, A Raisin in the Sun (1961), a story about an African-American family living in a small apartment in the Chicago slums, but with the hope of improving their lives with the receipt of a $10,000 life insurance policy payout. Having been born and raised in Iowa, the movie was my first exposure to racism and discrimination against minorities. It wasn't until we were shown the movie in 5th grade that I even understood such things existed. The movie and Ruby's performance made a huge impact on me. In many ways, life-changing.
Ruby and her husband Ossie were also well known for their work with civil-rights
Dee is 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.Ruby Dee died peacefully in her sleep at her home in New Rochelle, NY.
In November 2005 Dee was awarded - along with her late husband - the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award, presented by the National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis.
She will be greatly missed.