6 Things Real Fans Knew About Ruby Dee

The late actress had a rich life on and off the big screen. 

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Oprah Winfrey poses with actors Ruby Dee and Angela Bassett at the Broadway opening of The Color Purple at the Broadway Theatre Dec. 1, 2005, in New York City.

Peter Kramer/Getty Images

Iconic actress Ruby Dee died Wednesday at the age of 91. As the world mourns her death, real fans remember that her career was versatile and her life was multilayered.

1. She was a social activist.

Along with her husband, Ossie Davis, Dee was a fervent activist. In the 1950s she was an outspoken critic of McCarthyism. Close friends with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., she served as the master of ceremonies during the entertainment portion of the March on Washington. Dee was a member of the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Congress of Racial Equality. She also protested against the Vietnam War.

2. She was a lover of languages.

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Designer Kevan Hall, Ruby Dee and Harriette Cole attend a celebration of Ruby Dee’s style at Melba’s restaurant on June 9, 2008, in New York City.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

In 1944 she graduated from Hunter College with degrees in Spanish and French. Dee also became a member of Delta Sigma Theta.

3. She was a cancer survivor.

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Ruby Dee poses for a portrait at the Getty Images Portrait Studio during the 2006 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21, 2006, in Park City, Utah.

Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Dee was a breast-cancer survivor after being diagnosed nearly 40 years ago.

4. She was a Grammy winner.

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Ruby Dee poses in the press room with the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together by Dee and her late husband, Ossie Davis, at the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Feb. 11, 2007, in Los Angeles.

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Dee and her husband, Ossie Davis, won the 2006 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.

5. She had some reservations about her breakout role.

Regarding her part in the original production of A Raisin in the Sun, Dee said, “It seemed that I’d been playing that same character, more or less, in almost everything I’d done.” The play would lead her to stardom.

6. She spent most of her life without a single Oscar nomination.

Dee received her first Oscar nomination at the age of 83. The nod was for the film American Gangster.

Diamond Sharp is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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