Ruby Dee was an American actress who defied racist segregation-era stereotypes by landing lead roles in movies and on Broadway. Raised in Harlem, New York, she attended public school and started her acting career with the American Negro Theater as an apprentice. In 1965, Dee performed lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Cordelia in King Lear, becoming the first actress to portray a lead role in the festival. But it was Ruby Dee’s role as Ruth Younger in the stage and film versions of A Raisin in the Sun that catapulted her to celebrity.
Ruby Dee’s power and prowess in her roles on stage were matched by the activism exhibited throughout her life. Ms. Dee’s activism brought her in close contact with some of the titans of the civil rights movement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to fellow entertainer, Harry Belafonte. In 1963, Dee emceed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.