THE American actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee has passed away at the age of 91.
Born Ruby Ann Wallace in Ohio, Ms Dee’s first attempt to land an acting roll came up against racial prejudice. After failing to land a part in a High School drama club’s production she was told there were no roles for maids.
When the family moved to Harlem in New York, the young Ruby saw at first hand the poverty being suffered during the Great Depression. Her early experiences were to underpin her life-long activism.
Her early acting experience was gained in a theatre troupe in Harlem. Her first big break on Broadway came in the play A Raisin in the Sun in the late 1950s. Written by Lorraine Hansberry, the play — about three generations of a black family in Chicago — was the first by a black woman to be staged on Broadway.
Ms Dee went on to star in the 1961 movie version of the play (see below). Her earlier movie credits had included an acclaimed performance in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), as well as roles in Edge of the City (1957) and St. Louis Blues (1958).
While over the years she received a number of awards for her work on stage and screen, including an Emmy in 1991 for Decoration Day, it was to be 2008 at the age of 83 before she got her first Academy Award nomination. The best supporting actress nomination was for a remarkable performance, lasting just 10 minutes, in American Gangster.
Her later film credits included Do the Right Thing (1989), see below, Red & Blue Marbles (2011) and 1982 (2013).
Ms. Dee married actor Ossie Davis (1917-2005) in 1948. They were both active in the civil rights campaign, acting as masters of ceremonies at the historic march on Washington in 1963 when Martin Luther King made his I Have A Dream speech. She also spoke at the funerals of both Dr. King and Malcolm X.
Ms Dee passed away at her home in New Rochelle, New York. She is survived by her children Guy, Nora and Hasna.
To view the trailer for A Raisin in the Sun, click here.
To see the trailer for Do the Right Thing, click here.
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