Ruby Dee: Advice From a Legend

From actress to activist and writer, Ruby Dee led a full life and shared plenty of wisdom along the way.

Ruby Dee receives  the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award during the 16th Annual Diversity Awards at the Globe Theatre, Universal Studios Hollywood, Nov. 23, 2008, in Universal City, Calif.

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Legendary actress, activist and writer Ruby Dee passed away Wednesday at the age of 91. Her career spanned nearly seven decades and made a significant impact, especially in black film and theater. And a lifetime chock-full of rich experiences qualified her to deliver advice that we can all live by. 

1. On Courage

Actress Audra McDonald, then-NAACP Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond and actress Sanaa Lathan present Ruby Dee (center) with the Chairman’s Award onstage during the 39th NAACP Image Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium Feb. 14, 2008, in Los Angeles.

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“The greatest gift is not being afraid to question.”Ruby Dee

2. On the Beauty Within

Director Spike Lee accepts the Ossie Davis Humanitarian Award from Ruby Dee during the Film Life’s Black Movie Awards at the Shrine Wiltern Theater Oct. 15, 2006, in Los Angeles.

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“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within: strength, courage, dignity.” Ruby Dee

3. On Overcoming Fear

Ruby Dee accepts the Chairman’s Award as then-NAACP Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond looks on during the 39th NAACP Image Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium Feb. 14, 2008, in Los Angeles.

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“God, make me so uncomfortable that I will do the very thing I fear.” Ruby Dee

4. On Inequality

Actress Ruby Dee performs onstage at the Campaign for the Ossie Davis Endowment at the Martin Luther King Labor Center Feb. 29, 2008, in New York City.

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“Classism and greed are making insignificant all the other kinds of isms.” Ruby Dee

5. On Youth

Actresses Angela Bassett, Ruby Dee and Cherise Boothe at the premiere of the Lifetime film Betty & Coretta at Tribeca Cinemas Jan. 28, 2013, in New York City

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Lifetime

“That’s what being young is all about. You have the courage and the daring to think that you can make a difference. You’re not prone to measure your energies in time. You’re not likely to live by equations.” Ruby Dee

6. On Long-Lasting Love

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis at the opening of The Gem of the Ocean at the Walter Kerr Theatre Dec. 6, 2004, in New York City

Brad Barket/Getty Images

“If it is possible to learn to love somebody more than when you first married them, I am lucky enough to say that we did.” Ruby Dee on life with her husband, Ossie Davis

7. On Doing Work That You Love

Ruby Dee at the 5th Annual Black Girls Rock! Awards, held at the Paradise Theater Oct. 16, 2010, in New York City.

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“I really don’t believe in retiring as long as you can breathe.” Ruby Dee

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