OSSIE DAVIS and RUBY DEE
b. 1917 and 1924
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, who built what W. Calvin Anderson called a “sober allegiance to a proud African oral tradition and a rich African-American folklore,” met for the first time through the Rose McClen¬ don Players, a New York theater troupe.
In 1947, after performing together in Jeb Turner, they were married. Still performing together—Do the Right Thing (1989), and Jungle Fever (1991) — Davis and Dee remain important role models for anyone interested in the artistic representation of African-American culture.
Ossie Davis was bom in Cogdell, Geor¬ gia, and educated in segregated schools, lat¬ er attending Howard University, where he studied under Alain Locke. He quit Howard to pursue a career as an actor and writer in New York City, but was drafted a year later, in 1942, and forced to leave the Rose McClendon Players for a term as a surgical technician in Liberia.
Ruby Dee joined the Rose McClendon Players while Davis was in the service. She had come from Harlem with a B.A. from Hunter College in 1945.After apprenticing with the American Negro Theatre, she began to work with the Rose McClendon Players, where she met Davis on his return from Africa.Together, they became one of the nation’s key entertainment teams.
They col¬ laborated on the film No Way Out in 1950, the play Alice in Wonder in 1952, the play Purlie Victorious in 1961, the film version, called Gone Are the Days in 1963, the nine- part television series The History of Negro People in 1965, a record called The Poetry ofLangston Hughes in 1964 and their own television series called The Ruby Dee/Ossie Davis Story Hour in 1974.
Though interested in bringing the broad scope of African-American experience to all Americans through the act of story¬ telling in modem media, Dee and Davis were also committed activists.
Associated with the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Congress of Racial Equality, Davis and Dee have been tireless promoters of African-American pride. Ossie Davis was the M.C. for the 1963 March on Washington, and Dee established the ^ Ruby Dee Scholarship in Dramatic Arts.