Ms. Ruby Ann Wallace was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 27th, 1922. She grew up in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, and got involved in acting as a teenager in 1941 at the American Negro Theatre, a company that also educated talents like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte.
Dee had her first major career breakthrough in 1946, when she took the title role in the ANT’s Broadway production of Anna Lucasta. 1946 would prove to be a great year for Ruby as she met her soul mate, actor Ossie Davis, while performing in the play Jeb. The couple married two years later and eventually had three children together. Dee soon began landing some film roles, including playing the wife to a baseball great in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950).
Dee landed a starring role on Broadway in Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun in 1959. She earned great acclaim for her portrayal of Ruth Younger in this drama about a struggling African-American family. Sidney Poitier played her husband. Two years later, Dee reprised her role in the film version of the play.
Around this time, Dee joined forces with her husband to appear in the play Purlie Victorious. Davis wrote this southern comedy and he and Dee co-starred in it together. The pair reprised their roles for the 1963 film adaptation. Over the years, the couple worked on a number of projects together. They were also very active in the Civil Rights Movement, participating in marches and speaking out for racial equality. Both Dee and Davis were friends of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Dee suffered a tremendous loss in 2005, when her husband, Ossie Davis, died unexpectedly. She had been away, filming a movie in New Zealand, at the time of his death; Davis had been working on a film entitled Retirement.
Mrs. Ruby Dee worked up until June 11, 2014, when she died of natural causes at her home in New Rochelle, New York, at the age of 91