Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis

Listen to the full-length version of the Morning Edition interview with Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.

Davis & Dee
Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Courtesy of the
Screen Actors Guild Awards

Ossie Davis: An Appreciation

March 11, 2001 - Their Hollywood romance has flowered for more than half a century. Their joint partnership in justice has spanned and deeply influenced the civil rights movement. Individually, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are groundbreaking entertainers and social activists. Together, they're a team with few rivals on the American scene -- and they've been honored with the Screen Actors Guild's Life Achievement Award.

Davis and Dee met on Broadway in the 1946 production of Jeb and went on to make their film debut together in 1950 in No Way Out. Countless appearances on stage, screen and television followed. They have 10 Emmy nominations between them, and have appeared together in productions such as A Raisin in the Sun, Roots: The Next Generation and Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.

Much of Davis's best work has come backstage as a writer, director and producer, starting with the 1961 Broadway satire Purlie Victorious. He wrote and directed Cotton Comes to Harlem, collaborated with Dee on the PBS series With Ossie & Ruby and wrote the award-winning teleplay For Us The Living: The Story of Medgar Evers.

Dee won the Emmy as best actress for the 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame production Decoration Day. She was the first black woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival and turned her own stories, folktalkes and poetry into the 1998 one-woman show One Good Nerve.

Their work together on the American social scene began with strident opposition to Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Communist witchhunt in the 1950s and flowed into the civil rights movement a decade later. They served as masters of ceremonies for the 1963 March on Washington, scene of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Davis delivered the eulogy for Malcolm X after the black leader's 1965 assassination. They've sued in federal court to ensure black voting rights and they've been on the frontlines of latter-day efforts to protect equal rights for all.

The Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award follows a series of landmark honors for Davis and Dee, including the National Medal of Arts in 1995 and the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.

Ossie Davis: An Appreciation