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Acclaimed Actor and Civil Rights Activist Ruby Dee Has Died

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Legendary actress Ruby Dee has died at age 91, says daughter Nora Davis Day.

Ruby Dee, an acclaimed actor and civil rights activist whose versatile career spanned stage, radio, television and film, has died at age 91, according to her daughter.

Nora Davis Day told The Associated Press on Thursday that her mother died at home at New Rochelle, New York, on Wednesday night.

"We have had her for so long and we loved her so much," Day said. "She took her final bow last night at home surrounded by her children and grandchildren."

Dee, who frequently acted alongside her husband of 56 years, Ossie Davis, was surrounded by family and friends, she added.

Dee's long career brought her an Oscar nomination at age 83 for best supporting actress for her role in the 2007 film "American Gangster." She also won an Emmy and was nominated for several others.

Like her husband, Dee was active in civil rights issues and efforts to promote the cause of blacks in the entertainment industry. As young performers, they found themselves caught up in the fight for social and racial justice in the United States. Dee and Davis served as masters of ceremonies for the historic 1963 March on Washington and she spoke at both the funerals for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X.

In 1999, the couple was arrested while protesting the shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, by New York City Police.

Among her best-known films was "A Raisin in the Sun," in 1961, the classic play that explored racial discrimination. On television, she was a leading cast member on the soap operas such in the 1950s and `60s, a rare sight for a black actress in the 1950s and 60s.

As she aged, she continued to reach new career heights. Dee was the voice of wisdom and reason as Mother Sister in Spike Lee's 1989 film, "Do the Right Thing," alongside her husband. She won an Emmy as supporting actress in a miniseries or special for 1990's "Decoration Day."

She won a National Medal of the Arts in 1995 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2000. In 2004, she and Davis received Kennedy Center Honors. Another honor came in 2007, after Davis' death, when the recording of their memoir won a Grammy for best spoken word album.

She is survived by three children: Nora, Hasna and Guy, and seven grandchildren.

Ruby Dee participated in a 2012 Greene Space Event celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. Here she is reading an excerpt from the book:

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