Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee, born in October 27, 1922 – June 11, 2014 was an American actress, poet, playwright, journalist, screenwriter, and civil rights activist. Dee originated the portrayal of “Ruth Younger” in stage and movie versions of A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Her other film characters include The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) and Do the Right Thing (1989).

Dee was married to Ossie Davis, with whom she often performed until his death in 2005.

For her performance as Mama Lucas in American Gangster (2007), Dee was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Female Actor in Supporting character. Dee recieved a Grammy Award, Emmy Award, Obie Award and Drama Desk Award winner. Dee, was also a National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors and Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award recipient.

Dee was born on October 27, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Gladys and Marshall Edward Nathaniel Wallace, a cook, waiter and porter. After her mom left the family, Dee’s dad remarried, to Emma Amelia Benson, a schoolteacher.

Dee was raised in Harlem, New York. Earlier to attending Hunter College High School, she studied at Public Schools 119 and 136. Then, she went on to graduate from Hunter College with a degree in Romance languages in 1945. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta.

Dee, attended the American Negro Theatre as an apprentice, working with Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Hilda Simms. She appeared many times on Broadway, like her 1st portrayal in ANT’s 1946 production of Anna Lucasta. Dee’s 1st onscreen role was in That Man of Mine in 1946.IMAGE SOURCE GOOGLEShe won national recognition for her character in 1950 movie The Jackie Robinson Story. In 1965, Dee performed in lead characters at the American Shakespeare Festival as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Cordelia in King Lear, becoming the 1st black actress to played a lead role in the festival. Dee’s acting career crossed all major forms of media over a cycle of 8 decades, including the movies A Raisin in the Sun, in which she recreated her stage character as a suffering housewife in the projects, and Edge of the City.

In 1960s, Dee starred in Gone Are the Days! and The Incident. In 1969, Dee starred in 20 episodes of Peyton Place. Dee starred as Cora Sanders, a Marxist college professor, in season 1, episode 14 of Police Woman, entitled “Target Black” which surfaced on Friday night, January 3, 1975. The role of Cora Sanders was obviously, but loosely, influenced by the real-life Angela Davis.

She starred in one episode of The Golden Girls sixth season. She portrayed Queen Haley in Roots: The Next Generations, a 1979 miniseries.

Dee was nominated for 8 Emmy Awards, winning once for her character in the 1990 TV film Decoration Day. She was nominated for her TV guest appearance in the China Beach episode, “Skylark”. Dee’s spouse Ossie Davis (1917–2005) also starred in the episode. She appeared in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing, and his 1991 film Jungle Fever.

In 1995, she and Davis were honored with the National Medal of Arts. They were also won of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. In 2003, she narrated a series of WPA & slave narratives in the HBO film Unchained Memories. In 2007 the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album was shared by Dee and Ossie Davis for With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, and ex President Jimmy Carter.

Ruby Wallace married blues vocalist Frankie Dee Brown in 1941, and started using his amid name as her stage name. The duo divorced in 1945. 3 years later she married actor Ossie Davis, whom she met while costarring in Robert Ardrey’s 1946 Broadway play Jeb.IMAGE SOURCE GOOGLE Together, Dee and Davis wrote an autobiography in which they planned their political activism and their decision to have an open wedding (later swapping their views). Together they had 3 kids: son, blues musician Guy Davis, and two daughters, Nora Day and Hasna Muhammad. Dee was a breast cancer survivor of more than 3 decades.

In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Dee’s name and picture.

In November 2005, Dee was awarded – along with her late spouse – the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award, gave by the National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis. Dee, a far-time resident of New Rochelle, New York, was inducted into the New Rochelle Walk of Fame which honors the most notable residents from throughout the community’s 325-year history.

She was also inducted into the Westchester County Women’s Hall of Fame on March 30, 2007, joining such other respects as Hillary Clinton and Nita Lowey. In 2009, she won an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Princeton University.

Dee died on June 11, 2014, at her home in New Rochelle, New York, from natural causes at the age of 91. In a statement, Gil Robertson IV of the African-American Film Critics Association told, “the members of the African American Film Critics Association are saddened at the loss of actress and humanitarian Ruby Dee.

Throughout her 7-years career, Dee jumped different creative platforms with her different interpretations of black womanhood and also used her presents to champion for Human Rights.IMAGE SOURCE GOOGLE“She very peacefully surrendered”, told her daughter Nora Day. “We embraced her, we kissed her, we gave her our permission to go. She opened her eyes. She looked at us. She closed her eyes, and she set sail.” After her death, the marquee on the Apollo Theater read: “A TRUE APOLLO LEGEND RUBY DEE 1922–2014

She was cremated, and her ashes are held in the exact urn as that of Davis, with the inscription “In this stuff together. A public memorial gathering honoring Dee was held on September 20, 2014, at the Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan. Their shared urn was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

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