What I Thought of When I Heard That Ruby Dee Had Died

Slate's Culture Blog
June 12 2014 2:48 PM

What I Thought of When I Heard That Ruby Dee Had Died

Ruby Dee in 2006

Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Legend of stage and screen Ruby Dee passed away Wednesday evening at the age of 91. Cleveland–born and New York–raised, Dee broke down walls and made a name for herself at a time where there weren’t many opportunities for black women on stage or on the screen.

Her body of work is bountiful and varied. She inaugurated the role of Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, opposite Sidney Poitier, and later played the part on screen as well. She was Mother Sister in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. She wrote or co-wrote several books. She was an activist. She was nominated for eight Emmy Awards. She was nominated for an Oscar in 2007 for her role in American Gangster.


But when I heard that she had died, the first thing that came to mind was a 1995 production she starred in with her husband, Ossie Davis, called Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy. (Davis died in 2005.) One of the most poignant moments in the production is a monologue titled “When I’m Gone.” The couple shares the stage, bathed in soft light, and Dee instructs her partner how to react when she returns to the essence. “Beg God to bring me back,” she says, chuckling, “and give you another chance.” Sounds about right.

Derreck Johnson is a Slate Web designer.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.