Actress and civil-rights activist Ruby Dee passed away last night at the age of 91. Dee, a veteran of film and stage, was the winner of multiple awards including a Grammy, an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild award and the National Civil Rights Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Freedom award.
In 1953, Dee debuted on Broadway for the play South Pacific before making a name for herself starring in the Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun, playing Ruth Younger, the wife of Sidney Poitier. They both reprised their roles in the film eight years later. More recently, younger audiences gained familiarity with Dee from her work in Do the Right Thing and American Gangster, for which she received an Academy Award nomination at the age of 83.
Outside of acting, Dee blazed trails as a civil-rights activist. She served in organizations such as the NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Dee and her longtime husband Ossie Davis were personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dee gave a memorable reading at the Lincoln Memorial during King’s March on Washington. Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee, a documentary about the career and life of Ruby Dee and her husband Ossie Davis made by their grandson Muta’Ali, will debut at the 18th Annual American Black Film Festival.
Ruby Dee’s groundbreaking career was a case study of dignity in her contributions to the field of acting and civil rights. She will be dearly missed.