Not only are Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis perhaps the greatest love story of any real life couple, but they were also actors, poets, playwrights, directors, activists, parents, writers, and Broadway stars. They are perhaps best known for their roles, but they also fought for decades for our freedoms.
While in the army, Ossie was stationed in Liberia, where he became a part of the first black medical unit to deploy overseas. After coming back to the US, he met Ruby while doing a play together on Broadway in 1945. They married on December 9, 1948. Ruby originated the role of Ruth in A Raisin in the Sun, which was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Ossie took over as Walter Lee after Sidney Poitier left the production. Ruby went on to play Ruth in the film adaptation in 1961. Both Ruby and Ossie were a part of the Actors’ Equity Association which refused to perform at DC’s National Theatre until they ended their ban on black audience members. Ossie was also a playwright and in the beginning of his career wrote and staged a play for Negro History Week. Both of them were very instrumental in the Civil Rights movement.
They were great friends to both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Ossie delivered the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral and spoke at the memorial march after Matin Luther King’s death. They were both instrumental in the organizing, as well as emcees at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
They along with James Baldwin, John O. Killens, Clarence Jones, Odetta and others formed the Association of Artists for Freedom. It called for a Christmas boycott to protest the church bombing. Ruby also helped form, along with Juanita Poitier and others, the Committee of Concerned Mothers, which helped raise funds to buy a house for Malcolm’s widow, Betty Shabazz. They also participated in a Read In for Peace in Vietnam. They were also members of the NAACP.
Ossie was one of the founders of Third World Cinema, whose mission was to “increase minority presence in all aspects of the film industry.” They had a weekly radio show on National Black Network beginning in 1975. They formed a family production company called Emmalyn II Productions Company/Dee-Davis Enterprises.
They received the National Medal of Art from President Clinton, a NAACP Image Award, the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award in 2001, and Ruby received her first Oscar nomination for American Gangster as well as a SAG award.
They wrote a biography together called “With Ruby and Ossie: In This Life Together”. Ossie passed in 2005, at which point he and Ruby had been married 57 years. They had 3 children together. 2 years later Ossie and Ruby won a Grammy for the audio version of their autobiography.
They each wrote multiple plays. Ruby has 2 collections of poetry published as well. Ossie was in 7 Spike Lee joints, Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever both also co-starred Ruby. They are legendary for their love, incredible acting careers, and their activism which helped gain many of the freedoms we as black people enjoy today. I’m sure Ruby was extremely proud to live to see the first black president. Ruby will be 92 this year. To learn more about this amazing couple go to ossieandruby.com
Below is a photo gallery of the couple as well as Ossie’s powerful eulogy to Malcolm X, which can be heard at the end of the Spike Lee’s film:
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