In Black America Podcast: Remembering Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Dec 17, 2014

Rudy Dee and Ossie Davis

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were legendary stars of stage, television, and film, a beloved and revered couple cherished not just for their acting artistry but also for their lifelong commitment to civil rights, family values, and the African American community. In their revealing book - they look back on a half- century of their personal and political struggles to maintain a healthy marriage and to create the record of distinguished accomplishment that earned each a Presidential Medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

With Ossie and Ruby overflows with consummate storytelling skill developed by decades in the spotlight. From their early years as struggling actors in Harlem's black theater to Broadway and Hollywood stardom, they regale the reader with colorful, entertaining tales of the places they've been and the people they've met. But their charming humor is leavened with a more serious side, as they share their experiences of keeping a family together in a world where scandal and divorce is the rule, and of being artists and political activists in an era of intense racial ferment. Born into the struggle, their characters were shaped by the dynamic collisions of life, politics, and art; and from those experiences, they achieved some sense of their worth as married people, friends, and lovers.

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee met in 1945, when they were both performing in the same play on Broadway; Davis, resuming an acting career that had been interrupted by a World War II tour of duty in Liberia, was cast as the male lead, while Dee was originally hired as understudy to the female lead and soon found herself taking over the part. Three years later, still working together, they took advantage of a rehearsal-free day in their schedule to get married--and have been together through thick and thin ever since.

Ossie Davis died on February 4, 2005. He was 87. Rudy Dee dies on June 11, 2014. She was 91.