Ruby Dee was an American actress, screenwriter, poet, playwright and civil rights activist who had an illustrious career spanning more than 50 years. She was born on October 27, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio. She grew up in Harlem, New York and began acting as a teenager. She attended Hunter College and studied acting at the American Negro Theatre. Her first major role was the lead in a Broadway production titled “Anna Lucasta” in 1946. That same year she met her future husband Ossie Davis while working on the play “Jeb”. They were married in 1948 and had three children together.
In 1950 she played the wife of the baseball superstar Jackie Robinson in the movie “The Jackie Robinson Story”. One of her greatest performances was the lead role in the 1959 Broadway play “A Raisin in the Sun” by the famous playwright Lorraine Hansberry. She played the role of Ruth Younger who struggles to keep her family together whereas the role of Jackie Robinson was played by the acclaimed actor Sidney Poitier. She also acted in the film version of the play that was made 2 years later. She again starred with Poitier in the 1957 American drama film “Edge of the City”.
Dee and her husband Davis co-starred in the play “Purlie Victorious” which was written by Davis and later adapted to the big screen in 1963 in which the couple revived their roles. She had her own television show with her husband titled “With Ossie & Ruby”. In 1965, she performed in lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival, playing the role of Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew” and Cordelia in “King Lear”. She was the first black actress to play lead roles in the festival. She also undertook politically charged roles in the films “Gone Are the Days” and “The Incident”.
Both Dee and Davis were Civil Rights Activists. Dee was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.