Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee Photo


Date of Birth: October 27, 1924

Birth Name: Ruby Ann Wallace

Ruby Dee was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but after her parents split (her mother left), she and her father and stepmother moved to New York, where she was raised in Harlem.

Prior to graduating from Hunter College with degrees in French and Spanish, she began apprenticing at the American Negro Theater. Dee made her Broadway debut in South Pacific (not the musical). In 1946 she met her future husband, actor Ossie Davis, when they both appeared in the Broadway drama Jeb at the Amsterdam Theater. They would appear on Broadway again in 1959 in A Raisin in the Sun. By then they were married, had three children, and Ruby had become a big screen star, playing Rae Robinson in the hit movie The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), starring the ball player himself in the title role.

Ruby won a National Board of Review Award when she recreated her 1959 stage role in the major motion picture A Raisin in the Sun (1961), starring opposite Sidney Poitier. She worked with her husband again on Broadway in the play Purlie Victorious (1961), then repeated the role in the film version, Gone Are the Days (1963).

For her work in the play Boesman and Lena, she won an Obie award in 1971, followed by a Drama Desk award for 1973's Wedding Band. Ruby has appeared in dozens of films and television productions, and has achieved many awards along the way, including two Image awards, a 1991 Emmy Award for the TV movie Decoration Day, an ACE Award for the TV production of Long Day's Journey Into Night (1982), and several Lifetime Achievement awards, including one for both her and her husband from the St. Louis International Film Festival.

She and Ossie were given several other joint awards, including the "Paul Robeson Citation from the Actors Equity" in 1975, inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 1989, the Academy of Television Arts Sciences' Silver Circle Award in 1994, the "National Medal for Lifetime Achievement In the Arts" given at the White House in 1995, a Life Achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2001 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.

When Ossie died of natural causes in 2005, Ruby was in New Zealand filming No. 2 (2006), a performance that would earn her a "Jury Award for Best Actress" at the Atlanta Film Festival and a New Zealand Screen Award for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role." She and her husband also wrote two volumes of poetry and both were active in the American civil rights movement for many years.

More recently Ruby earned a 2008 Screen Actors Guild award for "Outstanding Performing by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role" for her work in American Gangster (2007), starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington. She was also nominated for an Oscar for the film.

With a strong desire to help others less fortunate, Ruby, along with her husband, made recordings for the blind, raised money to fight drug addiction and to help provide legal counsel for arrested civil rights workers. They founded the Institute of New Cinema Artists and also the Recording Industry Training Program. Along with their three children, they formed the production company Emmalyn II Enterprises. They also co-wrote an autobiographical book, entitled With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, discussing their lives as actors, parents and activists. Dee is also a survivor of breast cancer.

When relaxing, Ruby enjoys painting and playing the piano. She lives in New Rochelle, New York.


The Middle of Nowhere (2009)
Steam (2007)
American Gangster (2007)
All About Us (2007)
The Way Back Home (2006)
No. 2 (2006)
Dream Street (2005)
Baby of the Family (2002)
Baby Geniuses (1999)
A Simple Wish (1997)
Just Cause (1995)
Tuesday Morning Ride (1995)
Cop and ½ (1993)
Jazztime Tale (1992)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Love at Large (1990)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Cat People (1982)
The Torture of Mothers (1980)
Countdown at Kusini (1976)
Black Girl (1972)
Buck and the Preacher (1972)
Up Tight! (1968)
The Incident (1967)
Gone Are the Days! (1963)
The Balcony (1963)
A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
Take a Giant Step (1959)
St. Louis Blues (1958)
Virgin Island (1958)
Edge of the City (1957)
The Great American Pastime (1956) (uncredited)
Go, Man, Go! (1954)
The Tall Target (1951)
No Way Out (1950) (uncredited)
The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
The Fight Never Ends (1949)
That Man of Mine (1947)