Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee began life in different parts of the country, never realizing that destiny had plans for them to meet, marry and become two of the country's most respected actors and social activists. Davis was born in rural Georgia while Dee, born Ruby Ann Wallace Davis, hailed from northern Ohio. Both were the offspring of parents determined that their children would succeed in a time when discrimination against African-Americans was the norm, rather than the exception.
Davis and Dee showed a penchant for performing at early ages, respectively, and it was obvious that they would gravitate toward the theater. Davis attended college in Washington, D.C. and after a brief, and revealing stint in the military during World War II, he became a member of the American Negro Theater, where he met aspiring actress Ruby Dee, the latter's name after a failed marriage. The two started off as acting associates but that relationship latter blossomed into wedded bliss.
As their skills improved, more roles followed and the two worked steadily on stage, starting with traveling groups, and frequently appearing on Broadway. Ultimately, Hollywood would call and the pair would find themselves sometimes cast together but in most cases, they found themselves in separate movies.
Besides their acting, the pair became spokespersons and activists for the civil rights movement, often participating in marches (The 1963 March on Washington, to cite just one) and other rallies with the likes of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, as well as fellow celebrities Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, and Sidney Poitier.
The pair continued as trailblazers on the stage and screen, tackling roles formerly associated with non-black performers, and managed to acquire the praise of their peers and admirers by being honored by the NAACP, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and recipients of The Kennedy Center Honors.
This report prepared by Reginald D. Garrard