Heavyweights in Hollywood and Washington are mourning the loss of legendary actress and activist Ruby Dee.
According to a Thursday statement from Dee’s daughter Nora Davis Day, Dee died late Wednesday in her home of natural causes. She was 91.
“We have had her for so long and we loved her so much. She took her final bow last night at home surrounded by her children and grandchildren,” Day told the Associated Press.
Besides breathing life into some of Hollywood’s most unforgettable characters, Dee also used her notoriety to fight alongside her late husband Ossie Davis for civil rights. Dee emceed the 1963 March on Washington, protested apartheid in South Africa, and was known to be personal friends with both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Dee also delivered a eulogy at Malcom X’s funeral.
And Dee’s influence extended beyond the 1960s. At Sunday’s Tony Awards, six-time winner Audra McDonald thanked Dee, praising her for being one of the black actresses who made her career possible.
News of Dee’s passing has sparked an outpouring of support on Twitter:
Dee and Davis, who passed away in 2005, often worked together. The couple appeared together in five different films after meeting in 1945 on the set of a Broadway production. Dee and Davis would go on to share the stage a total of 11 times.
Speaking in Jackson, Miss. in 2006, Dee said of their relationship, “We used the arts as part of our struggle.”
The couple broke down walls, and will be remembered as trailblazers in the world of entertainment. Dee became the first African-American woman to play lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival in 1965. The actress was also awarded a National Medal of the Arts in 1995, and the couple was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2004.
Her film credits, which are too lengthy to list, include some of Hollywood’s most celebrated films: 1961’s “A Raisin in the Sun” starring Sidney Poitier; 1989’s ”Do the Right Thing,” directed by Spike Lee; and 2007’s “American Gangster,” for which Dee earned an Oscar nomination.
Among the many honors Dee earned during her lifetime were a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 2007 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2000. Dee shared the former honor with Davis, whose win was posthumous.
The Broadway community plans to honor Dee Friday when theaters along the Great White Way will dim their lights at 7:45 p.m., ahead of showtime at 8 p.m.
Dee is survived by her three children, Nora, Hasna and Guy, along with seven grandchildren. A plan for a public memorial is in currently underway.