Stage, screen actress Ruby Dee dies at 91: family

Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:16pm EDT
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By Will Dunham

(Reuters) - Legendary stage and screen actress Ruby Dee, who won acclaim on stage, in film and television and became a notable figure in the U.S. civil rights movement, died peacefully at home, a friend of the family said on Thursday.

The actress, who was 91 years old, died on Wednesday night in New Rochelle, New York, surrounded by her family.

"She died of natural causes," said Arminda Thomas, who works for Dee's family. "She was blessed with old age."

The petite actress won an Oscar nomination in 2008 for her role in "American Gangster." After being nominated for six Emmys, she nabbed the award in 1991 for her role in the TV movie "Decoration Day."

Dee was married to actor Ossie Davis for 56 years until his death in 2005. The couple, who had three children, formed a productive and enduring artistic and activist partnership. They performed together in plays and films and appeared together at some of the seminal events of the turbulent civil rights era.

The actress broke free from the racially stereotypical roles often given to black actresses when she began her career in the 1940s and continued to act into her 90s.

Friends and fans turned to Twitter to express their sadness.

"Words cannot express how much Ruby Dee inspired me to be who I am today. I will miss her dearly ...," hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons tweeted.   Continued...

Actress Ruby Dee arrives at The Film Society's Annual Gala Presentation of the 38th Annual Chaplin Award  honoring award-winning actor Sidney Poitier in New York City May 2, 2011.  REUTERS/Stephen Chernin