Ruby Dee was one of the leading women of the American stage whose gifted artistry, unwavering dedication to her values and generous spirit made her an icon in her profession and out in the greater world.
In a career that spanned seven decades and all major media forms, Ruby Dee solidified her place as an icon. The consummate performer, she brought life to many literary works, including Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place and John William Corrington’s Decoration Day.
From her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Frank Lucas’ feisty mother in American Gangster to her role as loyal, yet justifiably worried Rachel Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story, Ruby Dee delivered some of the finest performances on stage, screen and television. Her stellar performances earned her a Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards as well as the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.
While Ruby Dee was acting force to be reckoned with, she and husband Ossie Davis’ were integral and highly visible participants in the civil rights movement. Leveraging celebrity to bring light to inequality, she was as committed to justice as she was to the stage. Where history was being made, you likely would find Ruby Dee. She emceed the 1963 March on Washington, protested apartheid in South Africa, and spoke at the funerals of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. As she matured, Dee’s thirst for justice never waned. In 1999, both Rudy Dee and her husband were arrested in New York City while protesting the shooting of Amadou Diallo.
Gil Robertson IV of the African American Film Critics Association stated the feelings of the global community best, “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, Ms. 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.”