"The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within - strength, courage, dignity."
In 1924, Ruby Dee was born, Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio. Dee, actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter,journalist, and activist, is perhaps best known for co-starring in the film A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and the film American Gangster (2007) for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Dee's love of English and poetry motivated her to study the arts. She attended Hunter High School, one of New York's first-rate schools that drew the brightest girls. While in high school, Dee decided to pursue acting. After graduation Dee entered Hunter College. There she joined the American Negro Theater (ANT) and adopted the stage name Ruby Dee. While still at Hunter College, Dee took a class in radio training offered through the American Theater Wing. This training led to a part in the radio serial Nora Drake. After college Dee worked as a French and Spanish translator. She knew, however, that the theater was to be her destiny.
In 1946 Dee got her first Broadway role in Jeb, a drama about a returning African American war hero. There she met Ossie Davis, the actor in the title role. They became close friends and were married on December 9, 1948. Dee made several appearances on Broadway before receiving national recognition for her role in the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story. Her career in acting has 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 Sidney Poitier. During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.
In 2007 the winner of the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album was tied between Dee and Ossie Davis for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together, and former President Jimmy Carter. In 2003, Ruby Dee also narrated a series of WPA slave narratives in the HBO film Unchained Memories, according to IMDB. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of Mama Lucas in American Gangster. She won the SAG award for the same performance. Dee was also inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame.
"God, make me so uncomfortable that I will do the very thing I fear."In 1953 she became well known for denouncing the government's decision to execute Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for wartime spying. This experience helped Dee realize that racism and discrimination (treating people differently based on race, gender, or nationality) were not exclusively black experiences. Dee and Davis were involved in and supported several other civil rights protests and causes, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington.
Ruby and her husband, Ossie Davis collaborated on several projects designed to promote black heritage in general and other black artists in particular. In 1974, they produced The Ruby Dee/Ossie Davis Story Hour for the National Black Network. In 1981, they produced the series With Ossie and Ruby for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Dee found this work particularly satisfying because she got to travel the country talking to authors and others who could put the black experience in perspective. She believes that the series made black people look at themselves outside of the problems of racism.
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.