The nation was rocked by news today that Ruby Dee has died. The award-winning actress passed away Wednesday evening in her home in New Rochelle, N.Y. according to a family member. She was 91.
Ruby Dee’s stage and film career is one of the most astounding on record. Alongside her late husband Ossie Davis, Dee thrilled audiences in a variety of roles for decades.
Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio on October 27, 1922. She was raised in Harlem, later graduating from Hunter College in 1944. She got her start in acting while studying at the American Negro Theater, learning the craft alongside fellow future stars Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.
Broadway was where she got her first big break in a production of Anna Lucasta in 1946. During that run, she would meet Davis as he worked the set of another play and the pair married two years later. Hollywood would soon come to acknowledge the star power of Dee as she landed the role of Jackie Robinson’s wife in the 1950 film, The Jackie Robinson Story.
Another of Dee’s more notable performances was the Broadway rendition of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun in 1959. With critics praising her role as Ruth Younger opposite of Sidney Poitier who played the husband, she would reprise the role in 1961 in the film version.
The 1960s would prove to be a rich time for she and her husband. Davis wrote the southern comedy Purlie Victorious, starring the couple. A film was released in 1963 with the two reprising their roles and they continued a fruitful acting partnership between them. Around this time, Dee and Davis involved themselves in the Civil Rights Movement and were close with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Dee would make her presence felt in recent fare, such as her memorable roles in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. In 2007’s American Gangster, Dee received her first Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actress category for her role as Mama Lucas.
Along with her extensive stage and film appearances, Dee was also a fixture on television. She starred in the sweeping slave drama Roots and a film adaptation of I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings.
Attempting to list all of Dee’s noteworthy achievements would be impossible. She has won an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Screen Actors Guild award among several others. As an activist, she was in the forefront of fighting for civil rights. She was also a playwright and spoken word artist, gracefully taking on each incarnation of her career.
As the world mourns the lost of the iconic and glamorous actress, a look back at her body of work is more than enough to cement her powerful legacy.
Rest In Power, Ruby Dee. Thank you for entertaining and enlightening us.
Photo: Miami Book Fair International/Miami-Dade College/Wikipedia Commons/GFDL