The award-winning actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee died today at the age of 91. Dee’s career spanned seven decades, and her film credits include The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Do the Right Thing (1989) and American Gangster (2007).
In 1984, Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis joined Bill for a two-hour special, The Second American Revolution, about the civil rights struggle, an issue the couple knew well. They were master and mistress of ceremonies at the 1963 March on Washington, and were friends with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
In this clip from the show, Dee talks about the ongoing racism that “has trampled our self-esteem and numbed hope.”
“We came from slavery with the strength of true believers, in our God, in our country, in our great documents. And we’ve tried to get a toehold, to heal the old wounds and be made whole again.
But America has met us with a false face — with a racism that has made rage the basic rhythm of our lives. A racism that has trampled our self-esteem and numbed hope. Racism, that cancer on the bosom of our nation, that gnaws at the psyche of black America and keeps us screaming and shaking for relief.
It hands us upward mobility on rungless ladders, back door trap chutes to disillusionment and oblivion. Be patient, the country tells us. Be clean. Be thrifty. Be industrious. Be and be and be. So we keep struggling for definitions. Organizing, snatching at possibilities, in the country, in the city, in the courts, on the streets — everywhere.
But those who try to overcome in spite of all link us to survival, to hope, to ourselves. And so we must keep on telling the stories of our heroes and heroines, sung and unsung, as best we can.
Because it is they who urge us to hang on, to join hands, to move relentlessly toward greater understanding among all people, to move toward justice and toward love.”