The legendary Ruby Dee passed away at age 91 at her home in New Rochelle, New York on Wednesday night, as reported to The Associated Press by her daughter. Born Ruby Ann Wallace, she got her start on Broadway, but it was a star turn as Rae Robinson in ‘The Jackie Robinson Story,’ that helped to launch her film and television career.
She appeared alongside Sidney Poitier in 1961’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun‘, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. The role of Mama Lucas in ‘American Gangster‘ earned her an Oscar nomination and a Screen Actor’s Guild award. She appeared in critically acclaimed episodes for ‘Police Woman‘ and ‘Peyton Place.’ Starred in the made-for-TV movie adaptation of Dr. Maya Angelou‘s autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings‘ and even made her way down to Miami for an episode of ‘The Golden Girls‘ where she played Blanche’s former nanny. One of her most famous roles was as Mother Sister in Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing,’ which also co-starred her husband Ossie Davis, who died in 2005. Lee made a statement on his Instagram about Dee’s passing saying that he was “crushed” over death. Ruby frequently appeared along side Ossie in on stage and screen. In their autobiography, ‘With Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together,’ they discussed their political activism, and friendships with both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The couple were arrested in 1999 for protesting the shooting of Amadou Diallo in front New York City’s police headquarters.
Her stage career included performances in ‘King Lear,’ ‘The Glass Menagerie‘ and ‘Bus Stop.‘ At Sunday night’s Tony awards, Audra McDonald included her as one of the black actresses that made her stage career possible. A breast cancer survivor of more than three decades, she leaves behind three children, musician Guy Davis, Nora Davis Day and Hasna Muhammed.
A private service will be held for family and friends, a public service will be announced at a later date.