Ruby Dee is best known for co-starring in the 1961 film “A Raisin in the Sun” and the 2007 film “American Gangster.”
The award-winning actress survived her husband, actor Ossie Davis, who died in 2005.
While her performances on the big screens proved she had the natural ability to capture audiences and evoke powerful emotions, her story as a breast cancer survivor of more than 30 years and a civil rights activist is what truly captured the hearts of many.
Dee was an active member of the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In 2005, she and her late husband were the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award presented by the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
She leaves behind her three children including 62-year-old blues guitarist Guy Davis.
She is also survived by two daughters – Hasna Muhammad Davis and Nora Day Davis.
Dee and her husband were very comfortable with their open relationship and claimed that they “freed themselves” through an unconventional marriage.
“It occurred to us, from observation and reasoning, that extramarital sex was not what really destroyed marriages, but rather the lies and deception that invariably accompanied it,” Davis wrote in the couple’s joint biography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together. “But looking back, I’d say no matter what did or did not happen, we freed each other. And in doing that, we also freed ourselves … Sex is fine, but love is better,” Davis said.
Eventually the pair came to the conclusion that open marriage wasn’t the best option for their relationship or for others seeking to make their relationships stronger.
“We both came to realize that we were very fortunate that, in all of the deep, profound, fundamental ways, we really, really only wanted each other,” Dee wrote. “It was like a rediscovery of something from the beginning. It’s not something that you’d recommend to everybody.”
While it was unique, the couple’s open marriage was still never enough to distract fans from Dee’s talent.
During her long acting career Dee was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “American Gangster,” won a Primetime Emmy for her role in “Decoration Day,” took home the African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress in “American Gangster,” along with 15 other coveted awards.