Ruby Dee (born Ruby Ann Wallace, October 27, 1922 – June 11, 2014) was an American actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and civil rights activist. She is perhaps best known for originating the role of "Ruth Younger" in the stage and film versions of A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Her other notable film roles include The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) and Do the Right Thing (1989).
For her performance as Mahalee 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 a Supporting Role. Dee was a Grammy, Emmy, Obie and Drama Desk winner. She was also a National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors and Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award recipient.
Ruby Dee in 1972
Ruby Ann Wallace
October 27, 1922
|Died||June 11, 2014 (aged 91)|
New Rochelle, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Hunter College (1945)|
|Occupation||Actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, activist|
|Spouse(s)||Frankie Dee Brown |
(m. c. 1941; div. 1945)
(m. 1948; died 2005)
|Children||3, including Guy Davis|
Dee was born on October 27, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Gladys (née Hightower) and Marshall Edward Nathaniel Wallace, a cook, waiter and porter. After her mother left the family, Dee's father remarried, to Emma Amelia Benson, a schoolteacher.
Dee was raised in Harlem, New York. Prior 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 joined the American Negro Theater as an apprentice, working with Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Hilda Simms. She made several appearances on Broadway, such as her first role in ANT's 1946 production of Anna Lucasta. Her first onscreen role was in 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 Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Cordelia in King Lear, becoming the first black actress to portray a lead role in the festival. Her 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 Gone Are the Days! and The Incident. In 1969, Dee appeared in 20 episodes of Peyton Place. She appeared as Cora Sanders, a Marxist college professor, in the Season 1/Episode 14 of Police Woman, entitled "Target Black" which aired on Friday night, January 3, 1975. The character of Cora Sanders was obviously, but loosely, influenced by the real-life Angela Y. Davis. She appeared in one episode of The Golden Girls' sixth season. She played Queen Haley in Roots: The Next Generations, a 1979 miniseries.
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 Jungle Fever.
In 1995, she and Davis were awarded the National Medal of Arts. They were also recipients 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 winner of 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 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 is currently 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.
On February 12, 2009, Dee joined the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus, along with the Riverside Inspirational Choir and NYC Labor Choir, in honoring Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday at the Riverside Church in New York City. Under the direction of Maurice Peress, they performed Earl Robinson's The Lonesome Train: A Music Legend for Actors, Folk Singers, Choirs, and Orchestra, in which Dee was the Narrator.
Dee's last role in a theatrically released film was in the Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words, in which she portrayed the mother of Murphy's protagonist. Perhaps, her penultimate film role is in 1982, which premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was released on home video on March 1, 2016. It is unknown whether her final role will ever be seen, as King Dog was in production at the time of her death, and no release date has ever been announced.
Ruby Wallace married blues singer Frankie Dee Brown in 1941, and began using his middle name as her stage name. The couple divorced in 1945. Three years later she married actor Ossie Davis, whom she met while costarring in Robert Ardrey's 1946 Broadway play Jeb. Together, Dee and Davis wrote an autobiography in which they discussed their political activism and their decision to have an open marriage (later changing their views). Together they had three children: son, blues musician Guy Davis, and two daughters, Nora Day and Hasna Muhammad. Dee was a breast cancer survivor of more than three decades.
Dee and Davis were well-known civil rights activists in the Civil Rights Movement. Dee 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 Davis were both personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral in 1965. In 1970, she won the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League.
In early 2003, The Nation published "Not In Our Name", an open proclamation vowing opposition to the impending US invasion of Iraq. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were among the signatories, along with Robert Altman, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon, and Howard Zinn, among others.
In November 2005, Dee was awarded – along with her late husband – the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award, presented by the National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis. Dee, a long-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 honorees as Hillary Clinton and Nita Lowey. In 2009, she received 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 said, "the members of the African American Film Critics Association are deeply saddened at the loss of actress and humanitarian Ruby Dee. Throughout her seven-decade career, Dee embraced different creative platforms with her various interpretations of black womanhood, and also used her gifts to champion for Human Rights. Her strength, courage, and beauty will be greatly missed."
"She very peacefully surrendered", said her daughter Nora Day. "We hugged 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." Following her death, the marquee on the Apollo Theater read: "A TRUE APOLLO LEGEND RUBY DEE 1922-2014".
Dee was cremated, and her ashes are held in the same urn as that of Davis, with the inscription "In this thing together". A public memorial celebration 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.
|1946||That Man of Mine |
|1947||Easy to Get ||Drugstore girl||U.S. Army venereal disease training film|
|The Fight Never Ends ||Jane|
|1948||What a Guy|||
|1950||The Jackie Robinson Story||Rae Robinson|
|No Way Out||Connie Brooks||Uncredited|
|1951||The Tall Target||Rachel|
|1954||Go, Man, Go!||Irma Jackson|
|1957||Edge of the City||Lucy Tyler|
|1958||St. Louis Blues||Elizabeth|
|1959||Take a Giant Step||Christine|
|1961||A Raisin in the Sun||Ruth Younger|
|Gone Are the Days!||Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins|
|1967||The Incident||Joan Robinson|
|1970||King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis||Documentary|
|1972||Buck and the Preacher||Ruth|
|Black Girl||Netta's Mother|
|1976||Countdown at Kusini ||Leah Matanzima|
|1989||Do the Right Thing||Mother Sister|
|1990||Love at Large||Corrine Dart|
|1991||Jungle Fever||Lucinda Purify|
|Cop and a Half||Rachel|
|1994||The Stand||Mother Abagail Freemantle|
|1996||Mr. & Mrs. Loving ||Sophia|
|1997||A Simple Wish||Hortense|
|1998||A Time to Dance: The Life and Work of Norma Canner||Narrator||Documentary|
|2003||Beah: A Black Woman Speaks||Herself||Documentary|
|2006||No. 2||Nanna Maria|
|The Way Back Home ||Maude|
|2007||All About Us ||Ms. Ella|
|American Gangster||Mama Lucas|
|2009||The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll ||Miss Candy|
|Politics of Love |
|Red & Blue Marbles ||Professor Wright|
|2012||Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey With Mumia Abu-Jamal|||
|A Thousand Words||Annie McCall|||
|2013||Betty & Coretta||Narrator|||
|url=(help). Caedmon. ISBN 978-0-694-51187-7.
A Raisin in the Sun is a 1961 drama film directed by Daniel Petrie and starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Roy Glenn, and Louis Gossett Jr. (in his film debut), and adapted from the 1959 play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry. It follows a black family that wants a better life away from the city.
A Raisin in the Sun was released by Columbia Pictures on May 29, 1961. In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States of America National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".A Storm in Summer
A Storm in Summer is a 2000 television film directed by Robert Wise and starring Peter Falk, Andrew McCarthy, Nastassja Kinski and Ruby Dee. It is the last film to be directed by Wise before his death. Rod Serling first wrote the original script in 1970 and the filmmakers re-used the very same one for this production. Serling's script was posthumously honored with an Emmy nomination and a Writers Guild Award.
Producer Renee Valente won a Daytime Emmy in 2001 for her work on the film.America (2009 film)
America is a 2009 American television film starring Rosie O'Donnell, Ruby Dee and Philip Johnson. It was directed by Yves Simoneau and written by Joyce Eliason. The film is based on the young adult novel America by E.R. Frank. It premiered on February 28, 2009, on Lifetime.American Gangster (film)
American Gangster is a 2007 American biographical crime film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by Steven Zaillian. The film is fictionally based on the criminal career of Frank Lucas, a gangster from La Grange, North Carolina who smuggled heroin into the United States on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War, before being detained by a task force led by detective Richie Roberts. The film stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in their first lead acting roles together since 1995's Virtuosity. The film also co-stars Ted Levine, John Ortiz, Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Ruby Dee, Lymari Nadal and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Development for the film initially began in 2000, when Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment purchased the rights to a New York magazine story about the rise and fall of Lucas. Two years later, screenwriter Steven Zaillian introduced a 170-page scriptment to Scott. Original production plans were to commence in Toronto for budget purposes; however, production eventually relocated permanently to New York City. Because of the film's rising budget Universal canceled production in 2004. After negotiations with Terry George, it was later revived with Scott at the helm in March 2005. Principal photography commenced over a period of five months from July to December 2006; filming took place throughout New York City and concluded in Thailand.
American Gangster premiered in New York on October 20, 2007, and was released in the United States and Canada on November 2. The film was well received by most film critics, and grossed over US$266.5 million worldwide, with domestic grosses standing at $130.1 million. Many of the people portrayed, including Roberts and Lucas, have stated that the film took a lot of creative license with the story, and three former DEA agents sued Universal claiming the agency's portrayal was demoralizing. American Gangster was nominated for twenty-one awards, including two Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Dee), and won three including a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Dee.Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee. It stars Lee and Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, and Samuel L. Jackson, and is the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez. The story follows a Brooklyn neighborhood's simmering racial tension, which culminates in tragedy on a hot summer day.
The film was a commercial success and received numerous accolades, including Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Aiello's portrayal of Sal the pizzeria owner. It is often listed among the greatest films of all time. In 1999, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" in its first year of eligibility by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.Jungle Fever
Jungle Fever is a 1991 American romantic comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Spike Lee. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Lonette McKee, John Turturro, Frank Vincent, Halle Berry, and Anthony Quinn, and is Lee's fifth feature-length film. Jungle Fever explores the beginning and end of an extramarital interracial relationship against the urban backdrop of the streets of New York City in the 1990s.Lincoln (miniseries)
Lincoln, also known as Gore Vidal's Lincoln, is a 1988 American television miniseries starring Sam Waterston as Abraham Lincoln, Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Todd Lincoln, and Richard Mulligan as William H. Seward. It was directed by Lamont Johnson and was based on Gore Vidal’s novel. It covers the period from Lincoln’s election as President of the United States to the time of his assassination
Lamont Johnson won an Emmy for directing Lincoln.
The miniseries was also nominated for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Special, Outstanding Art Direction in a Miniseries or a Special, Outstanding Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Special, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special (Mary Tyler Moore), Outstanding Directing in a Miniseries or a Special, Outstanding Mini-series and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special (Ruby Dee) at the 40th Primetime Emmy Awards.
The film was shot almost entirely in Richmond, Virginia, and it cost $8 million to produce.NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
This page lists the winners and nominees for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Currently, Alfre Woodard holds the record for most wins in this category with six.National Negro Network
The National Negro Network was a black-oriented radio programming service in the United States founded on January 20, 1954 by Chicago advertiser W. Leonard Evans, Jr. It was the first black-owned radio network in the country, and its programming was broadcast on up to 45 affiliates. An article in the trade publication Broadcasting said that the network was expected "to reach approximately 12 million of the 15 million Negroes in America."Evans was the network's president. Reggie Schuebel was vice president-treasurer, and John M. Wyatt was executive vice president.The network featured a variety of different programming, including a popular soap opera The Story of Ruby Valentine, which was based on CBS's We Love and Learn and As the Twig is Bent, and starred Juanita Hall, Ruby Dee and Terry Carter. The serial was sponsored by, among others, Philip Morris and Pet Milk. Other short-lived series included The Life of Anna Lewis with Hilda Simms, and It's A Mystery Man with Cab Calloway.Some shows were produced by Calloway and Ethel Waters. Other fare included broadcasts of symphony concerts from black colleges, and programs hosted by black DJs at affiliate stations.The network drew up plans for several more series, but—with the TV era exploding—fell apart within a year due to inadequate capital.Jason Chambers wrote in his book, Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry that Evans felt that advertising agencies were hesitant to recommend NNN to clients. "Agencies are aware of our existence and watch our growth closely," Evans said, "but ... are still reluctant to come right out and make a recommendation [for using] Negro radio, preferring to keep campaigns at a 'test' level while watching to see what others do."New Rochelle Walk of Fame
The New Rochelle Walk of Fame was installed in 2011 in Ruby Dee Park at Library Green, located in the downtown section of the city of New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York. The "walk" is a tribute to some of New Rochelle's most notable residents from throughout its 325-year history. It was created and funded by former resident Roderick Kennedy, Jr., working in partnership with the City of New Rochelle and the New Rochelle Business Improvement District.Ossie Davis
Ossie Davis (born Raiford Chatman Davis; December 18, 1917 – February 4, 2005) was an American film, television and Broadway actor, director, poet, playwright, author, and civil rights activist.He was married to Ruby Dee, with whom he frequently performed, until his death in 2005.He and his wife were named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame; were awarded the National Medal of Arts and were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.Our Endangered Values
Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis is a book written by Jimmy Carter. On January 15, 2006 it was listed at #1 on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list.Carter won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for the spoken word production of this book, tying with Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.Purlie
Purlie is a musical with a book by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose, and Peter Udell, lyrics by Udell, and music by Gary Geld. It is based on Davis's 1961 play Purlie Victorious, which was later made into the 1963 film Gone Are the Days! and which included many of the original Broadway cast, including Davis, Ruby Dee, Alan Alda, Beah Richards, Godfrey Cambridge, and Sorrell Booke.Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award
The Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award is an award presented by the Screen Actors Guild's National Honors and Tributes Committee for "outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession." The award predates the 1st Screen Actors Guild Awards by over thirty years. The first recipient of the award was performer and comedian Eddie Cantor, awarded to him in 1962. Since 1962, the award has been presented every year except for 1963 and 1981. There has been two occasions where two individuals received the award the same year: the first in 1985, when it was presented to actor Paul Newman and actress Joanne Woodward, and again in 2000, when it was presented to civil rights activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. As of 2018, 54 individuals have received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award: 46 men and 19 women.St. Louis Blues (1958 film)
St. Louis Blues is a 1958 American film broadly based on the life of W. C. Handy. It stars jazz and blues greats Nat "King" Cole, Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, and Barney Bigard, as well as gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and actress Ruby Dee. The film's soundtrack used over ten of Handy's songs including the title song.
In conjunction with the film, Cole recorded an album of W. C. Handy compositions, arranged by Nelson Riddle, and Fitzgerald incorporated "St. Louis Blues" into her concert repertoire.Take a Giant Step
Take a Giant Step is a 1959 coming-of-age drama film directed by Philip Leacock. The plot concerns a black teenager living in a predominantly white environment and having trouble coping as he reaches an age at which the realities of racism are beginning to affect his life more directly and pointedly than they had in his childhood. Adapted from the Broadway play by Louis S. Peterson, the film stars Johnny Nash - who would ultimately become more well known for his singing career, including the hit song "I Can See Clearly Now" - as the lead character, Spencer "Spence" Scott. Co-stars included Ruby Dee as the Scott family's housekeeper, Estelle Hemsley as Grandma Martin (Hemsley was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress), and Beah Richards as Spence's mother. The movie's executive producer was Burt Lancaster through his Hecht-Hill-Lancaster production company.The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson
The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson is a 1990 American drama film directed by Larry Peerce and written by L. Travis Clark, Steve Duncan, Clay Frohman and Dennis Lynton Clark. The film stars Andre Braugher, Daniel Stern, Ruby Dee, Stan Shaw, Paul Dooley and Bruce Dern. The film premiered on TNT on October 15, 1990.The Stand (1994 miniseries)
The Stand is a 1994 American television horror miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. King also wrote the teleplay and has a minor role in the series. It was directed by Mick Garris and stars Gary Sinise, Miguel Ferrer, Rob Lowe, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Molly Ringwald, Corin Nemec, Adam Storke, Ray Walston, Ed Harris, and Matt Frewer. It originally aired on ABC starting on May 8, 1994.
Awards for Ruby Dee