In Black America Podcast: Remembering Actor, Activist Ossie Davis
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with screen and stage legends Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Playwright, director, producer, actor, and advocate for civil and social rights, Davis was a passionate man with many achievements. As an actor, he starred on stage and in films based on race-conscious issues including A Raisin in the Sun, No Way Out, The Joe Lewis Story, and received an NAACP Image Award for his work in Do the Right Thing. He appeared on several television series, such as The Defenders, The Client, Queen, The Stand, and Evening Shade.
Davis was born on December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. After graduating from high school, he entered Howard University. Eager to pursue a career in the performing arts, he left before graduation and moved to New York, where he joined Harlem’s Rose McClendon Players and studied acting under Lloyd Richards. After serving in the Army in World War II, he made his Broadway debut in 1946, playing the title role of “Jeb” at the Martin Beck Theater. It was here that he met the equally talented Ruby Dee, an understudy in the production. The pair went on to tour together in a production of Anna Lucasta and married in 1948.
Both are known for having been longstanding political activists who were highly visible during the Civil Rights Movement; they joined Dr. King, in his crusade for jobs and freedom, speaking at the historic 1963 March on Washington. Also, they helped to raise funds for the Freedom Riders. In 1965, Davis delivered the moving eulogy at the funeral of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X. Both Davis and Dee spoke out at rallies for progressive and humanitarian causes.
Davis passed away on Feb. 4, 2005 at the age of 87. He was in Miami filming the movie “Retirement.”