ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Ruby Dee
National Visionary


Born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 27, 1924

Actress, Civil Rights Leader, Writer








BIOGRAPHY
The forever vibrant Ruby Dee is known as an icon with an inspirational presence in the African American culture. As a civil rights leader, actress, and author, she had to overcome adversity, and has made a formidable impression in the struggle for equal rights.


Dee as a young woman

Ruby Ann Wallace (stage name Ruby Dee) was born on October 27, 1924. As an alumna of Hunter College, she began her illustrious career in the 1940s with the American Negro Theater, appearing on a number of playhouse bills. In 1948, the young actress played a feature role in Anna Lucasta, where she was paired with actor and writer Ossie Davis. She would soon marry Davis, and eventually star in several of his productions. Her superior stage presence led to her renowned performances in the films No Way Out and A Raisin in the Sun.


This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Center
This award-winning star went on to appear in a number of socially conscious productions, and gained national recognition with her performance in The Jackie Robinson Story in 1950. She then made headway for people of color in the performing arts as the first African American to play major roles in the American Shakespeare Festival in Stanford, Connecticut.

On television, Ruby Dee was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, finally winning one in 1991 for her role in Decorating Day. She was also honored with an Obie Award for her title role in Athol Fugard’s Boesman & Lena, and earned an Ace Award for her role as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Ruby Dee was further honored with a Literary Guild Award for her inspiring work with children’s stories.
Davis and Dee co-authored a joint autobiography-With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together (William Morrow/Harper Collins, 1998), written in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. The two received the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Silver Circle Award in 1994 and are inductees in the Theater Hall of Fame and the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. In 1995 they were celebrated as "national treasures" when they received the National Medal of Arts.  In 2000, they received the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the Life Achievement Award.  In December 2004, in one of their last major public appearances together, Davis and Dee were among the artists awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for their life's work.  In addition, at the 2007 Grammy awards, Davis and Dee were tied winners in the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album with former President Jimmy Carter.

Having experienced first-hand the difficulties minorities encounter in the worlds of theater and film, Dee has always been involved and influential when it came to the African American struggle in the arts. Friend of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and proud member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Dee has been inducted into both the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the Theater Hall of Fame.

With over 50 years of collaborative works with her husband, the never-acquiescent civil rights activist has shown her willingness to work for the benefit of others. From her arrest during the Amadou Diallo protest to celebrating her wedding anniversary by raising funds for small playhouse theaters, her battle for equal rights has clearly not reached its end.

She and her late husband Ossie Davis, who passed away in February 2005, have three children: son, blues musician Guy Davis, and two daughters, Nora Day, and Hasna Muhammad.


VIDEO CLIPS


EXTERNAL LINKS
Ruby Dee's Wikipedia page
Ruby Dee's IMDb profile

RELATED LINKS
Ruby Dee Roundtable Discussion
Ossie Davis' Visionary Page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/deeruby

ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z