Ruby Dee, a Legend of Stage and Screen, Has Died at 91

A two-time Drama Desk Award winner, Dee starred in the original Broadway production of ”A Raisin in the Sun”.

Ruby Dee attends a 2011 event in honor of Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theater.
Ruby Dee attends a 2011 event in honor of Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theater.
(© David Gordon)

Ruby Dee, the Oscar-nominated actress of stage and screen, has died at the age of 91, according to published reports.

Born Ruby Ann Wallace in Ohio on October 27, 1922, Dee was raised in Harlem and attended Hunter College High School and later graduated from Hunter College in 1944. She made her film debut in 1946's That Man of Mine and received national recognition in 1950 for her performance as Rae Robinson in the film The Jackie Robinson Story. A well-known veteran of Spike Lee films, Dee's many screen appearances included Do the Right Thing and American Gangster, for which she received a 2007 Academy Award nomination.

Also a prolific stage actress, Dee received two Drama Desk Awards, the first for her 1971 performance in Boesman and Lena, for which she also won an Obie, and the second in 1973 for Wedding Band. Her many Broadway credits include Purlie Victorious, Checkmates, and the original production of A Raisin in the Sun. She would go on to repeat her performance as Ruth Younger in the film version of Lorraine Hansberry's seminal drama opposite Sidney Poitier.

A well-known civil rights activist, Dee and her husband, the late actor Ossie Davis, were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Medal, presented by the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The pair received the National Medal of Arts in 2005 and were Kennedy Center honorees in 2004.

Dee is predeceased by Davis, who died in 2005, and is survived by their children, the blues musician Guy Davis, Nora Day, and Hasna Muhammad.