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Fri, 10.27.1922

Ruby Dee, actress, and activist

Ruby Dee, 1957

Ruby Dee was born on this date in 1922. She was a Black actress and activist.

Born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, her father, Marshall Edward Wallace, was a Pullman Porter and waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad; her mother, Emma Wallace, was a schoolteacher.  She grew up in Harlem, New York, and was a 1945 graduate of Hunter College.

Dee was the first Black woman to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival, in Stratford, CT. She made several appearances on Broadway before getting national recognition for her role in the 1950 film,"The Jackie Robinson Story." Her acting career has crossed all major forms of media over a span of eight decades, including films such as "A Raisin in the Sun" opposite Sidney Poitier (1961), "Uptight" (1968), "Buck and the Preacher" (1972), "Roots" (1978), "Do The Right Thing" (1989), and "The Delany Sisters: The First Hundred Years" (1999). She married actor Ossie Davis and they had one son, Guy Davis, born in 1952.

During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films such as "Gone Are the Days" and "The Incident," which paved the way for many young Black filmmakers and actors. She was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, winning once for her role in 1990s Decoration Day.  Dee and her late husband, actor Ossie Davis, were well-known American Civil Rights activists.

She was a member of such organizations as CORE, the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She and her husband were personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Ossie Davis giving Malclom X's eulogy at his 1965 funeral.

Dee was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and a survivor of breast cancer for more than 30 years. Ruby Dee died on June 12, 2014.

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