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Ruby Dee - Portrait of a Cleveland-Born Actress


Actress Ruby Dee in 2007

Actress Ruby Dee in 2007

(Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Ruby Dee, born in Cleveland in 1924, is a versatile stage, screen, and television actress. Although she left Northeast Ohio as a young girl, Ms. Dee (nee Ruby Ann Wallace) has returned numerous times, starring in Karamu House and Cleveland Play House productions, among other projects. She is nominated for a 2008 Academy Award for her work in "American Gangster."

Early Life:

Born in Cleveland on October 27, 1924, Ruby Ann Wallace moved with her father to New York's Harlem neighborhood as an infant, after her mother left them. Ruby's father remarried, to a schoolteacher, and she grew up in Harlem. Later, she graduated from New York City's Hunter College.

Acting Credits:

Ruby Ann Wallace, taking the stage name Ruby Dee, debuted on Broadway in the late 1940s, with a small part in South Pacific. Since then, she has appeared in dozens of plays, films, and television shows. Highlights include the film "The Jackie Robinson Story" (1950), "A Raisin in the Sun" on Broadway(1959), and the TV film "Decoration Day" (1990). For a complete list of Ms. Dee's acting credits, see her page on IMDB.

Cleveland Connection:

Dee has appeared in numerous Cleveland stage plays, beginning with the touring production of "Anna Lucasta" in 1946 at the Hanna Theater. Since then, she has appeared in several Karamu House productions and with the Great Lakes Theater Festival. Her most recent Cleveland appearance was in the Cleveland Play House's production of "St. Lucy's Eyes."

Personal Life:

Ruby Dee has been married twice, to Frank Dee Brown in 1941 (they divorced in 1945) and to actor Ossie Davis in 1948. She and Davis remained married until his death in 2005. The pair had three children.

Dee and Davis were active in the 1960s Civil Rights movement and were personal friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In fact, she gave the eulogy at the Malcolm X's funeral.


Dee has received numerous awards for her acting. Among them are three Emmy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Kennedy Center Honor in 2004.

What's Next for Ruby Dee:

The octogenarian actress shows no sign of slowing down. In addition to her work in "American Gangster," Dee appeared in two other 2007 releases: "Steam" and "All About." She is also a frequent guest star on television's "CSI" series.

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