Ruby Dee, Hollywood and Civil Rights Legend, Has Died at 91

Hollywood legend and Civil Rights activist Ruby Dee died in New Rochelle, New York on Wednesday. She was 91.

Born in Cleveland and raised in New York, Dee was an accomplished actress and earned many awards including an Emmy, a Grammy, a Screen Actors Guild trophy. She shined not only on the silver screen in films like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing but also on Broadway in the first performance of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun in 1953.

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After joining the American Negro Theatre in 1941 alongside Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, Dee wowed audiences throughout the years with peak performances in seminal film and television productions like 1950's The Jackie Robinson Story, 1979’s Roots: The Next Generations and 2007’s American Gangster, for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

Offscreen, her dedicated marriage to fellow actor-activist Ossie Davis set an example that love can not only be found but nourished in Hollywood though monogamy isn’t the only road to success. The couple shared in their autobiography, according the New York Daily News, that “lies, not extramarital affairs, destroy marriages.” Davis passed away in 2005, the same year the couple was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Freedom award from the National Civil Rights Museum.

In addition to stage work, Dee and Davis were members of the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The couple were also close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Dee read a piece at Dr. King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

On Sunday, as Audra McDonald received her best leading actress Tony award, she thanked Dee for paving the way so she and others could come after. Dee was truly an icon and she will be missed.


Image via Getty.