Ruby Dee personified class throughout her life. The Oscar-nominated actress, born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland in 1922, began making movies in the mid 1940s and didn’t stop until 2013. In that time she was also was an accomplished playwright, Grammy-award winning poet, social activist and inspiration to millions. Dee passed away Wednesday at the age of 91.
To many, Dee is probably best known for roles in films like her 1950 breakout role in The Jackie Robinson Story, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and Daniel Petrie’s 1961 film of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun. (Dee had originated the Raisin in the Sun role two years earlier on stage.) Her Oscar-nominated role in American Gangster was performed at the age of 85. She was also a TV mainstay, and was introduced to a new generation of viewers in the mini-series adaptation of The Stand.
Dee was also a significant social activist, and performed the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965. Dee lived a life most of the world can only dream of. It was long, fruitful, and marked by impressive achievements. She won’t soon be forgotten.