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They were inseparable and they were intertwined. The African-American actress who earned lead roles in movies and on Broadway also spent her entire life fighting against injustice, even emceeing the March on Washington and protesting apartheid in South Africa.
Celebrity Sweethearts Slideshow That legacy of entertaining and pushing for change - in addition to her epic love affair with Davis - made Dee, who died at age 91 in her New Rochelle, New York, home on Wednesday night, a beloved figure in America and beyond.
She got an Oscar nomination at age 83 for best supporting actress for her role in the film "American Gangster.
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Al Sharpton on Thursday called her "a phenomenally rare artist and a jewel to our nation and community," and director Spike Lee took to Instagram to say he was "crushed. Both reprised that role in the film two years later. Davis and Dee, who met in when she auditioned for the Broadway play "Jeb," and married on a day off from another play in , shared billing in 11 stage productions and five movies during long parallel careers. But they were more than a performing couple.
They were also activists who fought for civil rights, particularly for blacks. Along with film, stage and television, their richly honored careers extended to a radio show, "The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour," that featutred a mix of black themes. Davis directed one of their joint film appearances, "Countdown at Kusini" As young performers, they participated in the growing movement for social and racial justice in the United States.
They were friends with barrier-breaking baseball star Jackie Robinson and his wife, Rachel - Dee played her, opposite Robinson himself, in the movie, "The Jackie Robinson Story" - and with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Both spoke at both the funerals for King and Malcom X. Their activism never waned. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by helping to launch the 30th-anniversary celebration of the University of Iowa Black Action Theatre and in , were arrested protesting the shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, by New York City police.
In , the pair also released a dual autobiography, "With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together. In , she and Davis received Kennedy Center Honors. Another honor came in when the recording of their memoir won a Grammy for best spoken word album.
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She attended her first protests as a child, joining picket lines to rail against discriminatory hiring practices. She graduated from a highly competitive high school and enrolled in college but longed to act. But in she got a part in a Harlem production of a new play, "On Strivers Row," which she later called "one giant step" to becoming a person and a performer. In , she became the first black woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival. As she aged, her career did not ebb.
A Visit With Ruby Dee," in theaters across the country. The show was a compilation of some of the short stories, humor and poetry in her book of the same title. She is survived by three children: Nora, Hasna and Guy, and seven grandchildren.
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Her family and friends surrounded her when she died, Nora Davis Day said. She opened her eyes, closed her eyes and away she went. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.