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Award winning actress Ruby Dee dead at 91

Ruby Dee
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Ruby Dee passed away wednesday from natural causes, she was 91 years old. Best known for her roles in the films "A Raisin in the Sun", "American Gangster", "Jungle Fever" and "Do the Right Thing". She was also a playwright, activist, poet, performer and continued to act until her death. Ms. Dee was married to fellow actor and activist Ossie Davis for over 56 years until his death in 2005.

Born on October 27, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio as Ruby Ann Wallace. She grew up in Harlem, New York and graduated from Hunter College with a degree in romance languages. During this time she was briefly married to Frankie Dee Brown and used his middle name as the stage surname. After divorcing Brown, Dee pursued a career in theater and joined the American Negro Theatre working with such notable actors as Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. During her time with the A.N.T., she meet her future husband and actor Ossie Davis whilst working together on the play "Jeb". The two performers later married each other between rehearsals in 1948.

Ruby Dee made the transition from the stage to the silver and small screens. She gained noticed from Hollywood and critics with her performance of Ruth Younger in the film "A Raisin in the Sun" (Dee won the 1961 National Board Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role). During her long career in show business, Dee won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in made-for-T.V. movie "Decoration Day" and was nominated eight other times. She also won a Grammy Award (shared with her husband Ossie Davis) for the album "With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together" and an Obie in 1970 for her role in the production of "Boesman and Lena,”

Dee was also a civil rights activist along with her husband. The two worked tirelessly with Dr. Martin Luther King and others to promote racial equality and tolerance. She was outspoken with the roles African-American actors received in Hollywood and turned down numerous roles because of the stereotypes and negativity they portrayed. Ruby Dee also recorded several spoken word albums of poetry along with a collection of poems and a autobiography she co-authored with her husband Ossie Davis.

Ruby Dee was a remarkable individual. She was an outspoken civil rights and anti-war activist who spoke up against racial bigotry and the stereotype casting in Hollywood. A brilliant actress in her own right who continued to perform until her final days. Her presence upon the screen and heartfelt acting will be missed by fans of all ages. She is survived by her three children.

For more information about the life of Ruby Dee please visit

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