Dee, Ruby

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Almost a lifelong New Yorker, Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace on October 27, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family soon moved to New York, and Dee was raised during the golden age of Harlem. After high school, she attended New York's Hunter College, graduating in 1945. Expressive and literate, Dee was drawn to the theatre while still a college student. Dee acted in small Shakespearian productions and landed a role in the play,South Pacificin 1943. She also began to study with the American Negro Theatre, where she would meet her future husband, Ossie Davis. They would fall in love during a cross-country tour ofAnna Lucasta.

Ruby Dee's career as an actress has been nothing short of phenomenal. A petite, intelligent actress of nuance and sensitivity, she was talented enough and lucky enough to garner some of the best roles for black women in the 1950s and 1960s. On stage, she was the first black woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival, and won an Obie Award for her portrayal of "Lena" in Athol Fugard'sBoseman and Lena; a Drama Desk Award for her role in Alice Childress'Wedding Bandand an Ace Award for her performance in Eugene O'Neil'sLong Days Journey Into Night.

Dee has appeared in over fifty films. In 1950, she played Jackie Robinson's wife inThe Jackie Robinson Storyand forty years later, she played his mother in the television production,The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson. Her film credits include:A Raisin In The Sun(1961),Uptight(1968),Buck And The Preacher(1972),Roots(1978),Do The Right Thing(1989) andThe Delany Sisters: The First Hundred Years(1999). Dee won an Emmy Award for her performance in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production,Decoration Day. Throughout her film and television career, Dee has been selective and has brought that selectivity and dignity to every role she plays. She is particularly proud of her one-woman show,Zora Is My Name, about pioneering novelist, folklorist, anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston.

Dee and her husband are authors, storytellers and recording artists as well as actors. Her published works include the humorous,My One Good Nerveand various recordings for young people. In 1998, Dee and Davis co-wrote the autobiographical book,With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, in which they take turns telling their stories as actors, activists, a married couple and as parents.

Dee's life has not all been acting, however. She is a survivor of breast cancer for more than thirty years, and has long been active in a variety of movements. She, along with Davis, traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, as goodwill ambassadors, and eulogized Malcolm X in 1965 and later his widow, Betty Shabazz in 1997.

Jointly presented with The Academy of Television Arts and Science's Silver Circle Award in 1994, Dee and Davis officially became "national treasures" when they received the National Medal of Arts in 1995. In 2000, they were presented the Screen Actors Guild's Life Achievement Award. They are inductees in the Theater Hall of Fame as well as the NAACP Hall of Fame. In 2008, Dee was awarded the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film,American Gangster. She also received an Academy Award nomination for this role.

Dee was interviewed byThe HistoryMakerson March 7, 2001.

From The HistoryMakers™ biography: https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/A2001.024

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers of Holly Near, 1967-1994 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lucille Lortel papers, 1902-2000 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Guide to the James E. Jackson and Esther Cooper Jackson Papers, 1917-2018 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Alice Childress papers, 1937-1997 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Milton Rogovin Papers, 1928-2006, (bulk 1960-2003) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Frank Silvera Writers Workshop records, 1973-1992 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Kim Hunter scripts and rehearsal notes, 1957-1993 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Frederic Ewen Papers, Bulk, 1940-1970, 1915-1988, (Bulk 1940-1970) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn M. Moran Weston Papers, 1824-1994 Columbia University. Rare Book an Manuscript Library
referencedIn Lucy Kroll Papers, 1908-1998, (bulk 1950-1990) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Marlon Riggs Collection, 1957-1994 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Frederic Ewen Audiotape and Videotape Collection, 1954-1990 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Philip Rose papers, 1944-2007 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Bobbye S. Ortiz Papers, (bulk, 1919-1993 and undated, 1950-1990) David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Julian Mayfield papers, 1949-1984 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Guide to the Sam Reiss Photographs, circa 1930-1975 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee drama collection, 1951-1981, 1970-1979 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Frederic Ewen Papers, Bulk, 1940-1970, 1915-1988, (Bulk 1940-1970) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf The HistoryMakers Video Oral History with Ruby Dee The HistoryMakers
Relation Name
associatedWith Childress, Alice person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Davis, Ossie person
associatedWith Ewen, Frederic, 1899- person
associatedWith Frank Silvera Writers Workshop corporateBody
correspondedWith Holly Near, 1949- person
associatedWith Hunter, Kim, 1922-2002 person
associatedWith Jackson, Esther Cooper person
associatedWith Jackson, James E., 1914-2007 person
associatedWith Kroll, Lucy. person
associatedWith Lortel, Lucille person
associatedWith Mayfield, Julian, 1928- person
associatedWith Ortiz, Bobbye S. person
associatedWith Reiss, Sam. person
associatedWith Riggs, Marlon. person
correspondedWith Rogovin, Milton, 1909-2011 person
associatedWith Rose, Philip, 1921-2011 person
associatedWith Saddler, Donald person
associatedWith Weston, M. Moran, 1910- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New Rochelle (N.Y.)
Cleveland (Ohio)
New York (State)
Subject
Occupation
Film Actress
Stage Actress
Activity

Person

Birth 19241027

Death 20140611

Information

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