Stage and screen icon and civil rights stalwart, Ruby Dee has died. The actress died of natural causes in her home in New Rochelle, New York on June 11, according to CNN. She was 91.
Born on October 27, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, Dee was known best for her searing portrayal of Ruth Younger both in the original Broadway production of the groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun in 1959 and the subsequent film version in 1961. Her other notable stage credits include the central role in Athol Fugard's 1970 play Boesman and Lena as well as roles (often opposite her late husband Ossie Davis) on Broadway in Checkmates, Purlie Victorious, The Smile of the World, A Long Way from Home, Anna Lucasta and South Pacific. Though she had a long and illustrious stage and screen career, Dee was also known as a poet, playwright, screenwriter and activist.
Her many accolades include a Grammy (in 2007 for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together), Emmy (in 1991 for Decoration Day), Academy Award nomination (in 2008 for American Gangster), the National Medal of Arts in 1995 (with Davis) and the Kennedy Center Honors (with Davis) in 2004. She received an Honorary Degree from Princeton University in 2009.
As a civil rights activist, Dee was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Both she and Davis were friends of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. In 2005, Dee and her late husband were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum.
On June 8, Audra McDonald paid tribute to Dee in her Tony Awards acceptance speech by thanking her as one of the courageous women who have helped pave the way for her.
Dee is survived by three children: Nora, Hasna and Guy, and seven grandchildren.