Kobina "Boyo" Annan, Jr.
June 14, 2014
Ruby Dee was an American actress, poet, playwright,
screenwriter, journalist and activist.
Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio in 1922, to
Gladys Hightower and Marshall Edward Nathaniel, a cook, waiter
After her mother left the family, Dee's father remarried, to
Emma Amelia Benson, a school teacher. She was raised in Harlem
New York and attended Hunter College, where she graduated with a
degree in romance language in 1945. Dee was a member of the
Delta Sigma Theta.
Ruby Dee joined the American Negro Theater as an apprentice,
working with Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Hilda Simms.
She made several appearances on Broadway. Her first onscreen
role was in the That Man of Mine in 1946. She received
national recognition for her role in the 1950 film
The Jackie Robinson Story.
In 1965, Dee performed in lead roles at the American Shakespeare
Festival as in The Taming of the Shrew and Cordelia in
King Lear, becoming the first black actress to portray a
lead role in the festival.
Dee's career in acting crossed all major forms of media over a
span of eight decades, including the films A Raisin in the
Sun, in which she recreated her stage role as a suffering
housewife in the projects, and Edge of the City. She
played both roles opposite Poitier.
During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films
as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is
recognized as helping pave the way for young African -American
actors and filmmakers.
Dee was nominated for eight Emmy Awards, winning once for her
role in the 1990 TV film Decoration Day. She was
nominated for her television guest appearance in the China
Beach episode, "Skylark." Her husband Ossie Davis
(1917- 2005) also appeared in the episode. She appeared in Spike
Lee's 1989 film Do The Right Thing, and his 1991 film
In 1995, she and Davies were awarded the National Medal of Arts.
They were also recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.
In 2003, she narrated a series WPA slave narratives in the HBO
film Unchained Memories. In 2007 the winner of the Grammy
Award for Best Spoken Word Album was shared by Dee and Ossie
Davies for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together,
and former President Jimmy Carter.
Dee was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting
Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of Mama Lucas in American
Gangster. She won the Screen Actors Guild award for the same
performance. At 83 years of age, Dee was the second oldest
nominee for Best Supporting Actress, behind Gloria Stuart who
was 87 when nominated for her role in Titanic. This was
Dee's only Oscar nomination.
Together, Dee and Davis wrote an autobiography in which they
discussed their political activism and their open marriage.
Together they had three children: son blues musician Guy Davis,
and two daughters, Nora Day and Hasna Muhammed.
Dee and Davies were well-known civil rights activists. She was a
member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta
sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In
1963, Dee emceed the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Dee and Davies were both personal friends of Martin Luther King
Jr. and Malcolm X with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcom X's
funeral in 1965.
In 1999, Dee and Davis were arrested at 1 Police Plaza, the
headquarters of the New York Police Department, protesting the
police shooting of Amadou.
In November 2005 Dee was awarded along with her late husband,
the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award. This award was presented
by the National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis. She was
also inducted into the Westchester County women's Hall of Fame
on March 30, 2007
joining such other honorees as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nita
Lowey. In 2009 she received an Honorary Degree from Princeton
Dee died on June 11, 2014 at her home in New Rochelle, New York,
from natural causes at the age of 91. She will be cremated, and
her ashes will be held in the same urn as that of her husband
Davis, with the inscription "In this thing together"
May your spirit live on through film and spoken word. Rest in
Kobina "Boyo" Annan, Jr.
June 14, 2014