Oscar-nominated actress Ruby Dee, who is also known as a civil rights activist, has passed away. Her daughter Nora Davis Day told The Associated Press that her mother died of natural causes at home in New Rochelle, N.Y. on Wednesday, June 11. She was 91. Day added that Dee was surrounded by her friends and her family when she passed away.
"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 said. "We gave her our permission to set sail. She opened her eyes, closed her eyes and away she went."
SAG-AFTRA released a statement on Thursday following the sad news. Calling the actress "multi-talented," president Ken Howard said, "Ruby Dee was truly one of a kind. She was a woman who believed deeply in fairness, a conviction that motivated her lifelong efforts to advance civil rights. The acting community - and the world - is a poorer place for her loss."
Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace on October 27, 1922 in Cleveland. During her decades of career, Dee performed on stages, TV and movies. She started performing professionally on stage in 1941 and made her Broadway debut in 1946 with "Anna Lucasta".
Dee met her husband of 56 years Ossie Davis, who later became her frequent collaborator, during an audition in 1945. They got married in 1948. The couple starred in 11 stage plays and 5 movies together. Davis passed away in 2005.
Among her stage appearances, Dee probably is mostly remembered for her role in "A Raisin in the Sun" and 1963's "Purlie Victorious". In 1988, she played alongside Denzel Washington and Paul Winfield in "Checkmates".
She appeared in Spike Lee's movies "Do the Right Thing" in 1989 and "Jungle Fever" in 1991 in addition to other projects such as "Buck and the Preacher" and "St. Louis Blues" where she starred alongside Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt and Cab Calloway. Dee earned an Academy Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 2007's "American Gangster". On small screen, she made appearances on "All God's Children" and "It's Good to Be Alive" among others.
Director Spike Lee took to Instagram on Thursday, saying that he was "crushed" after learning of Dee's passing. "It has been one of my great blessings in life to work with two of the finest artists and activists," he added, referring to Dee and Davis.