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Also Known As: Ruby Ann Wallace Died: June 11, 2014
Born: October 27, 1924 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Cleveland, Ohio, USA Profession: actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, journalist, activist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Academy Award-nominated actress Ruby Dee was, by all accounts, an American icon. Her career spanned no fewer than three major movements in African-American culture - from the post-Harlem Renaissance era to the black pride voice of the 1970s to the commoditization of urban black culture in the 1990s. Throughout it all, the intellectual, smoky-voiced actress appeared on stage and screen in dramas that explored the black experience and celebrated its finest wordsmiths. Off-screen, Dee and husband/frequent collaborator, Ossie Davis, were devoted civil rights activists, whose career choices did as much to further the cause as their presence at pivotal moments in African-American history. During the 60-plus years of her career, Dee witnessed the fruits of her labor, as the civil rights movement ushered in a new era of respect and dignity for African-American actors who were afforded broad outlets to showcase the breadth of their talent. A dramatic orator and enthusiast of the African-American storytelling genre, Dee was also a published poet and author, as well as screenwriter. In every field that the impassioned and multi-talented Dee fearlessly pursued, she ensured that her children and grandchildren...

Academy Award-nominated actress Ruby Dee was, by all accounts, an American icon. Her career spanned no fewer than three major movements in African-American culture - from the post-Harlem Renaissance era to the black pride voice of the 1970s to the commoditization of urban black culture in the 1990s. Throughout it all, the intellectual, smoky-voiced actress appeared on stage and screen in dramas that explored the black experience and celebrated its finest wordsmiths. Off-screen, Dee and husband/frequent collaborator, Ossie Davis, were devoted civil rights activists, whose career choices did as much to further the cause as their presence at pivotal moments in African-American history. During the 60-plus years of her career, Dee witnessed the fruits of her labor, as the civil rights movement ushered in a new era of respect and dignity for African-American actors who were afforded broad outlets to showcase the breadth of their talent. A dramatic orator and enthusiast of the African-American storytelling genre, Dee was also a published poet and author, as well as screenwriter. In every field that the impassioned and multi-talented Dee fearlessly pursued, she ensured that her children and grandchildren would enjoy greater opportunities than the world into which she was born. Her death on June 11, 2014 was mourned by fans and civil rights leaders worldwide.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Letter to Booker T., A (1987) Director
3.
  My Man Bovanne (1987) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
4.
 Video Girl (2011)
6.
 Politics of Love (2011)
7.
 America (2009)
8.
 Steam (2008)
9.
 All About Us (2007)
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Grew up in Harlem
1941:
Worked as apprentice at American Negro Theater (classmates included Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte)
1943:
First Broadway role as a native in "South Pacific"
1946:
Had a featured role in "Jeb"; first Broadway appearance with Ossie Davis
1946:
First starring role on Broadway as title character in "Anna Lucasta"
1950:
Feature acting debut opposite Sidney Poitier in "No Way Out"
1950:
Portrayed the ballplayer's wife in "The Jackie Robinson Story"
1952:
Had regular role on TV daytime soap, "The Guiding Light" (CBS)
1957:
Appeared in "Edge of the City"
1959:
Portrayed Ruth Younger in the Broadway presentation of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun"
1960:
Featured in "Seven Times Monday" on "Play of the Week"
1961:
Co-starred in the stage production "Purlie Victorious"
1961:
Reprised stage role in feature version of "A Raisin in the Sun"
1963:
Co-starred in the film version of Genet's "The Balcony"
1964:
Earned first Emmy nomination for guest appearance on the ABC series "The Nurses"
1966:
Cast in the lead role of a black woman who marries a white man in "The Wedding Band"
1967:
Acted in the big screen drama "The Incident"
1968:
Screenwriting debut as co-author of "Uptight"; also co-starred
1968:
Had regular role on the ABC primetime serial "Peyton Place"
:
Worked as columnist for NYC's <i>Amsterdam News</i> and as associate editor of <i>Freedomways</i> magazine
:
Garnered much acclaim for playing the female lead in the stage play "Boesman and Lena"
1972:
Portrayed Leslie Uggams' mother in the feature "Black Girl"; directed by husband Ossie Davis
1972:
Reprised role of black woman in an interracial marriage in the Off-Broadway production "Wedding Band" (filmed for TV)
1974:
Once again played a baseball player's wife in the TV biopic "It's Good to Be Alive" (CBS)
:
Co-produced and starred on radio program, "The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour"
1979:
Portrayed Alex Haley's grandmother Queen in "Roots: The Next Generation" (ABC)
1979:
Wrote play, "Twin-Bit Gardens"; laster revised and presented as "Take It from the Top"; also made stage directing debut
1980:
Co-starred with Ossie Davis in "All God's Children"
1980:
Co-hosted and starred in the series "Ossie & Ruby" (with husband Ossie Davis); also produced and directed episodes
1983:
With Davis, headlined an all-black TV production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
1985:
Appeared in "The Atlanta Child Murders" (CBS)
1988:
Returned to Broadway alongside Denzel Washington and Paul Winfield in "Checkmates"
1989:
Portrayed Amanda Winfield in a staging of "The Glass Menagerie" in Washington, DC
1989:
Played supporting role of a mystical neighborhood resident in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing"
1990:
Portrayed famed Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston in "Zora Is My Name!" (PBS); also wrote teleplay
1991:
With husband, played the parents of Wesley Snipes in Lee's "Jungle Fever"
1994:
Portrayed Mother Abagail in the TV adaptation of "Stephen King's The Stand" (ABC)
1995:
Co-starred in the Academy Award nominated short "Tuesday Morning Ride"
1999:
Provided the voice of Alice the Great in the Nickelodeon animated series "Little Bill" starring Bill Cosby
1999:
Portrayed Bessie Delany in the TV presentation "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years"
1999:
Wrote and starred in the stage production "My One Good Nerve: A Visit With Ruby Dee"
2000:
Cast in the Showtime movies, "A Storm in Summer" and "Finding Buck McHenry"; co-starred with husband Ossie Davis
2001:
Returned to the NY stage in "St. Lucy's Eyes"
2006:
With husband Ossie Davis, created the spoken word album, "With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together" (released after Ossie's death)
2007:
Played Frank Lucas' (Denzel Washington) mother in "American Gangster"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress
2009:
Co-starred with Rosie O¿Donnell in the Lifetime movie, "America"; earned a SAG nomination for Best Actress in a TV Movie
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Actor's Workshop: New York , New York -
Hunter College: New York , New York - 1945

Notes

Ruby Dee has been Emmy nominated for the "Express Stop From Lenox Avenue" episode on "The Nurses" (best single performance by leading actress; 1963/64), for "Roots: The Next Generation" (best supporting actress in limited series or special; 1978/79), for "Gore Vidal's Lincoln" (best supporting actress in a mini-series or special; 1987/88), and for the "Skylark" episode on "China Beach" (outstanding guest actress in a drama series; 1989/90).

Received a honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Fairfield University, honorary doctorate from Iona College and Virginia State University.

She received (with husband) Frederick Douglass Award from NYC's Urban League for "bringing a sense of fervor and pride to countless millions" in 1970.

Given the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from Operation Push (1972).

Named to the Theater Hall of Fame in 1988.

Received National Medal of Arts in 1995.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Frank Dee. Distillery promoter. Briefly married; divorced in 1945.
husband:
Ossie Davis. Actor, writer, director. Married on December 9, 1948.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Edward Nathaniel Wallace. Railroad porter.
mother:
Gladys Hightower. Abandoned family to run off with a preacher.
step-mother:
Emma Wallace. Former teacher.
daughter:
Nora Davis. Educator. Born c. 1950.
son:
Guy Davis. Musician. Born c. 1952.
daughter:
Hasna Davis. School principal. Born c. 1957.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"My One Good Nerve" Third World Press
"Glowchild"
"Two Ways to Count to Ten"
"The Tower to Heaven"
"With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together" William Morrow
"My Last Good Nerve"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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