Legendary Actress & Civil Rights Activist Ruby Dee Dies

Getty Images

Ruby Dee, an Oscar-nominated actress whose career spanned from the stage to the screen, has died at the age of 91.

Ruby reportedly passed away peacefully at her home in New Rochelle, New York on Wednesday.

One of her best-known film roles was that of Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, based on the classic play exploring racial inequality. In 1965, she made history as the first black woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival.

In a career lasting seven decades, Ruby acquired an Oscar nomination for 2007's American Gangster, a Grammy win for her spoken word album With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together also in 2007, an Emmy win for the miniseries Decoration Day in 1991, a SAG Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, and many other accolades.

Ruby frequently collaborated with Ossie Davis, her husband of 56 years, up until his death in 2005. Off screen the couple paired up for civil rights issues. They were arrested in 1999 while protesting the shooting death of an unarmed African immigrant of Amadou Diallo, who died at the hands of New York City police.

Born in Cleveland, Ruby moved to Harlem as an infant after her parents split. She and her brother and two sisters were looked after by relatives and neighbors. Ruby caught the acting bug early on and was cast in a play called On Strivers Row in 1940 in Harlem.

Ruby kept busy in her later years. She most recently performed a one-woman stage show called My One Good Nerve: A Visit With Ruby Dee in theaters across the country.

"I think you mustn't tell your body, you mustn't tell your soul, 'I'm going to retire,'" Ruby told the Associated Press in 2001. "You may be changing your life emphasis, but there's still things that you have in mind to do that now seems the right time to do. I really don't believe in retiring as long as you can breathe."