Ruby Dee, Actress And Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 91

Ruby Dee grew up writing poetry in Harlem and went on to become a playwright, activist, journalist and one of the most prominent actresses of her time.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's take a moment now to remember Ruby Dee. The actress died Wednesday after a lifetime of entertaining audiences and challenging the status quo. Back in 1959, she starred in the original Broadway production of "A Raisin In The Sun" and the movie, two years later, alongside Sidney Poitier. That story centered on the daily struggles of a black family in Chicago just as the civil rights movement was taking off. Ruby Dee and her husband, Ossie Davis, were, in real life, deeply involved in the civil rights movement. They were friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Several years ago, Ruby Dee talked about what drew her into activism in this Archive of American Television interview.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW, "ARCHIVE OF AMERICAN TELEVISION")

RUBY DEE: I never remember, like, saying, well, I'm going to belong - join the civil rights movement. I just sort of thought, that's all I knew all my life, some aspect of it. When I first, years ago, saw my first picture of black men hanging from trees - when I could scarcely know the meaning of things, you know, when I began to contemplate racism - so I can't say that I joined it. I was born into it.

MONTAGNE: Later in her career, Ruby Dee won an Emmy award and Grammy, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in "American Gangster." Ruby Dee was 91 when she died Wednesday in New Rochelle, New York. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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