NEW YORK—Actress and Civil Rights Activist Ruby Dee passed away on June 11 at her home in New Rochelle, New York from natural causes at the age of 91.

She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but raised in Harlem, New York where she studied at the American Negro Theatre in NYC.  It was there that she met her husband Ossie Davis, whom the actress was married to for more than 56 years, before his passing in 2005.


Dee had a long and industrious career getting her start on Broadway in the 1946 play “That Man of Mine” and received national recognition for her role in the film “A Raisin in the Sun” in 1961 alongside Sidney Poitier. Dee won the Best Supporting Actress award from the National Board of Review. She was nominated for eight Emmy Awards, and won one for her work on in the TV movie “Decoration Day.”


She appeared on the daytime soap “Guiding Light” as Martha Frazier. She was known for her roles in the Spike Lee dramas “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.”


She received critical acclaim for her work as the mother of Denzel Washington’s character in the 2007 crime drama “American Gangster.” The actress won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Female Actor in a Supporting Role and received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress that same year. She made history becoming the second oldest woman to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress.


Dee is also the recipient of a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Spoken Word Album for “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.”  As a civil rights activist she was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


She was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She delivered the eulogy at X’s funeral in 1965.


Dee is survived by her children Guy, Hasna and Nora.