Lauraine Stapleton

Written by Lauraine Stapleton

Modified & Updated: 20 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


Ruby Dee was an extraordinary actress, activist, and stage performer whose talent and charisma left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Born on October 27, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio, Dee’s career spanned over seven decades and encompassed diverse roles in film, theater, and television.

Her groundbreaking contributions to the performing arts, as well as her tireless work as a civil rights activist, made her a true legend in American culture. From her unforgettable performances in films like “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Do the Right Thing” to her powerful advocacy for social justice, Ruby Dee captured the hearts and minds of audiences around the world.

In this article, we will explore 23 extraordinary facts about Ruby Dee that showcase her influential career, her passion for activism, and her lasting impact on the world of entertainment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ruby Dee was a trailblazing actress and civil rights activist who broke barriers in the entertainment industry and fought for social justice throughout her life.
  • Her remarkable career spanned over six decades, earning her numerous accolades and leaving a lasting legacy as an inspiration to aspiring actors and activists.
Table of Contents

Ruby Dee was born on October 27, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio.

She grew up in a culturally rich environment and developed a passion for acting from a young age.

She made her film debut in the 1949 musical drama “That Man of Mine.”

This marked the beginning of her successful career in both film and theater.

Ruby Dee was a prominent civil rights activist.

She actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement and worked alongside influential figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

She co-starred with her husband, Ossie Davis, in several projects.

The couple formed a dynamic duo on and off the screen, appearing together in films like “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.

Ruby Dee’s powerful performance in the 1961 film “A Raisin in the Sun” earned her critical acclaim.

Her portrayal of Ruth Younger showcased her exceptional acting skills and solidified her status as a talented actress.

She received numerous accolades throughout her career.

Ruby Dee was honored with a Grammy, an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Kennedy Center Honors, among others.

Ruby Dee was also a successful author.

She wrote an autobiography titled “My One Good Nerve: A Visit with Ruby Dee,” which received widespread acclaim.

She was the recipient of the National Medal of Arts.

In 1995, Ruby Dee was presented with the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.

Ruby Dee’s activism extended to her work off-screen.

She fought against racial inequality and advocated for social justice throughout her life.

She was the first African-American woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival.

Ruby Dee’s talent and versatility on stage helped break barriers in the theater industry.

Ruby Dee was married to Ossie Davis for 57 years until his death in 2005.

Their partnership was not only a creative collaboration but also a deeply loving and supportive relationship.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

President Barack Obama recognized Ruby Dee’s significant contributions to the arts and the civil rights movement.

She continued working in film and television well into her 80s.

Ruby Dee’s passion for acting remained strong throughout her life, and she continued to inspire audiences with her performances.

She was involved in the iconic film “American Gangster.”

Ruby Dee’s portrayal of the mother of drug dealer Frank Lucas showcased her incredible talent and garnered critical acclaim.

Ruby Dee was awarded the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2000.

This prestigious award recognized her remarkable contributions to the entertainment industry.

She was actively involved in promoting arts education.

Ruby Dee dedicated her time and resources to advocating for arts education in schools and communities.

Ruby Dee’s career spanned over six decades.

Her body of work is a testament to her talent, resilience, and unwavering commitment to her craft.

She was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Apollo Theater.

This honor recognized Ruby Dee’s significant impact on the world of performing arts.

Ruby Dee was a Tony Award nominee.

Her remarkable performances on Broadway earned her a nomination for the prestigious theater award.

She was an inspiration to many aspiring actors and activists.

Ruby Dee’s trailblazing spirit and dedication to social change continue to resonate with people around the world.

Ruby Dee passed away on June 11, 2014, at the age of 91.

Her legacy lives on through her groundbreaking work and indelible contributions to the arts.

She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

This honor immortalized Ruby Dee’s name and recognized her significant impact on the entertainment industry.

She was a beloved figure in the African-American community.

Ruby Dee’s advocacy, talent, and unwavering dedication made her an icon and a role model for generations to come.


Ruby Dee was an extraordinary actress, activist, and writer who left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry and society as a whole. Her talent, resilience, and dedication to social justice made her a true trailblazer. From her iconic performances on stage and screen to her relentless advocacy for civil rights, Ruby Dee’s impact will continue to be felt for generations to come. Her incredible career spanned over six decades, during which she received numerous accolades and paved the way for future black performers. Whether it was through her powerful portrayal of strong female characters or her unwavering commitment to equality, Ruby Dee’s legacy will forever shine brightly in the hearts of those who admire and appreciate her tremendous contributions.


1. What were some of Ruby Dee’s notable achievements in acting?

Throughout her career, Ruby Dee garnered critical acclaim for her performances in films like “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “American Gangster.” She was also the first African-American woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her role in “Decoration Day” in 1991.

2. Was Ruby Dee involved in activism?

Yes, Ruby Dee was heavily involved in activism. She, along with her husband Ossie Davis, became prominent figures in the civil rights movement and used their platform and influence to fight for racial equality and social justice.

3. Did Ruby Dee receive any awards for her activism?

Yes, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were both recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, for their lifelong dedication to civil rights and their contributions to the arts.

4. Did Ruby Dee write any books?

Yes, Ruby Dee was also a talented writer. She penned an autobiography titled “My One Good Nerve,” which chronicled her life and career as well as her experiences in the civil rights movement.

5. What is Ruby Dee’s lasting legacy?

Ruby Dee’s lasting legacy is one of excellence, activism, and inspiration. Her immense talent and unwavering commitment to social justice paved the way for future generations of black performers, and her impact on both the entertainment industry and the fight for equality cannot be overstated.

Ruby Dee's extraordinary life and career continue to inspire, just as her husband Ossie Davis left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Dee's powerful performances in American theater productions like "A Raisin in the Sun" and her unwavering commitment to the civil rights movement alongside icons such as Malcolm X showcase her multifaceted talents and passion for creating positive change. Explore more fascinating stories about the incredible individuals who shaped our world and the art that moves us.

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