Ruby Dee, a stage and screen legend who was raised in Harlem and got her start in New York City theater in the 1940s, has died.
Dee was in her early 80s when she delivered this spellbinding performance as Mama Lucas in the film "American Gangster.” At 83, she was the second oldest actor to receive an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
She was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland but she was raised on the gritty streets of Harlem where she cut her teeth as an actor with the American Negro Theater after graduating from Hunter High School and Hunter College. Black theater legend Grace Jones knew Ruby Dee in the early years as the actress skyrocketed to fame in the 1961 film version of “A Raisin In The Sun.”
"She was very down to earth when we were together,” said Jones.
Ruby Dee was not only an actor, she was also an activist often fighting the power right here on the streets of Harlem.
She fought social injustices alongside her equally famous husband and actor Ossie Davis until he passed away in 2005.
"I will remember Ruby & Ossie who put their careers on the line during the days of Jim Crow,” said former Mayor David Dinkins.
“Her and Ossie were activists before the word was coined,” said Councilwoman Inez Dickens of Harlem.
"They were activists, they were socially conscious,” said Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of the Apollo Theater.
Ruby Dee passed away peacefully at her home in New Rochelle with her family at her side. And although she criss-crossed the country as a celebrity, she always called Harlem home and never forgot her roots.
"They were co-founders of Harlem Week. They said it was important that we show off our culture,” said Voza Rivers of the New Heritage Theater.
Ruby Dee, a Hunter College graduate, amassed an impressive collection of honors during her lifetime: An Emmy, a Grammy, an Obie, Lifetime Achievement Awards galore and her many admirers say her greatest achievement was being her authentic self, a gem of an actor, appropriately named Ruby.
She was 91.