Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee: Family Always Came Before Career

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were an iconic power couple who both worked as activists and actors.  Dee was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1923 and began her acting career with her Broadway debut in 1946.  Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia in 1917, and after serving in World War II, he also began his acting career on Broadway.  The couple married in 1948 and spent much of their lives living in New Rochelle, New York where they raised their family.

Dee’s acting career included her appearance in hundreds of plays, movies and television shows, and she frequently co-starred with her husband.  Both Dee and Davis worked to advocate on the behalf of Black people in the performing arts.  Dee was nominated for a total of six Emmys during her career and also for an Oscar for her role in the 2007 film American Gangster.  Some of her other  films were The Jackie Robinson Story, A Raisin in the Sun, Do the Right Thing and Baby Geniuses.

Davis made his mark in his acting career early by being able to enjoy commercial success while avoiding roles that were stereotypical for Black actors.  Although Davis never had the success of Sidney Poitier, he went on to work as a playright and later gained recognition for his role in several Spike Lee films.

In 1989, Davis and Dee were named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.  They also received the National Medal of Arts in 1995 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.  Other accomplishments include their work as civil rights activists, specifically their instrumental role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington.

The couple also had three children.  In this video, Davis and Dee discuss how they handled the balancing of family and career.  Dee specifically discusses turning down roles to make sure their children were cared for.


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