We’ve lost yet another Black legend. Iconic actress, activist, poet and screenwriter Ruby Dee passed away at 91 years old.
She was reportedly at home in New Rochelle, NY surrounded by family, who confirmed she died June 11, New York Daily News Reports. The family has declined to answer any further question pending the release of a formal statement.
Dee was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1922. During her rich life, she was an actress, poet, screenwriter and activist who won a plethora of awards for her work including a Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards. She is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Her career began on Broadway where she made several appearances before receiving her first film role in 1949, in the musical drama “That Man of Mine.” She received national recognition for her role in the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story and gained acclaim in starring roles over the decades including the 1960s film “A Raisin in the Sun,” a host of Spike Lee movies, notably “Do The Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever,” and in more recent years “American Gangster,” starring Denzel Washington. Her final film, crime drama “King Dog” opposite Ice-T, is still-in-production.
Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis, who died February 4, 2005, not only collaborated together on-screen but were also active fighters in the Civil Rights movement, working alongside Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
A private service will be held for family and friends to remember the star. A public memorial will be held at a later date.
1. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
If there was ever a role model for true love, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis would be that couple. Their love story spanned over five decades and even in their death, it still inspires generations to believe in Black love and the lifelong happiness it can bring. In honor their union, let’s take a look back at their milestones moments.
2. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Davis and Dee met in 1945 at a Broadway audition for the play Jeb, and they were inseparable ever since. Three years later, Ossie proposed to Ruby by sending a telegram to her from Chicago. In December 1948, on a day off from rehearsals, the young lovebirds took a bus to New Jersey and tied the knot.
3. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
During their parallel careers, the actors shared billing in 11 stage productions and five movies, including key roles in 1950’s “No Way Out,” 1963’s “Gone Are the Days,” and the 1978 TV series “Roots: The Next Generation.”
4. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
The lovebirds were more than just a performing couple. They used their gifts to bring the civil rights movement to the national stage. “We used the arts as part of our struggle," Ruby said in 2006. "Ossie said he knew he had to conduct himself differently with skill and thought." Their radio show, The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour, addressed African-American themes and political activism.
5. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Along with fighting for civil rights and promoting African Americans in the entertainment industry, the couple was arrested together in 1999 while protesting the shooting death of unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo.
6. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Dee and Davis were great friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. They served as masters of ceremonies for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and Dee spoke at both of the civil rights activists’ funerals.
7. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
In 1995, the pair was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the President of the United States. Other milestone honors included an induction into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame and a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album – With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together.
Their union produced three children — Guy Davis, Nora Davis, Dr. Hasna Davis Muhammad — and seven grandchildren.
9. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
For their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998, the couple celebrated with the publication of a dual autobiography, titled “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.”
10. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Davis summed up his unconditional love for his wife in this heartfelt quote: “Ruby, marriage with you was always much more nest than prison, with no desire for the inmate to escape.”
11. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Ossie was found dead in a hotel room at in Miami Beach, Fla. in 2005 at 87. Nine years after his passing, at 90, Dee said “I’ve had time to realize there's really no such thing as death. When I'm reincarnated, I hope Ossie and I continue the journey together.”
12. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
“Cremation after a public ceremony, and then into an urn. A special urn, large enough and comfortable enough to hold both our ashes. Whoever goes first will wait for the other. When we are united at last, we want the family to say goodbye and seal the urn forever. Then on the side, in letters not too bold — but not too modest either — we want the following inscription: 'Ruby and Ossie — In This Thing Together.'"