A star on Broadway, on television and in film, actor Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia on Dec. 18, 1917.
His career in entertainment would span more than half a century and helped open doors for many other Black actors. He first debuted on Broadway in the production Jeb in 1946, where he met his future wife, actress Ruby Dee. Many of his most acclaimed roles would be shared with Dee, including roles on the TV series Roots: The Next Generation (1979), Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum (1986) and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) and Jungle Fever (1991).
Davis was also an accomplished playwright, director and producer. In 1995, he and his wife were honored with the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. His other honors include being inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame in 1989 and awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.
Off-screen, he was an ardent supporter for civil rights, notably participating in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963 and delivering the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965. On Feb. 4, 2005, Davis was found dead inside his hotel room in Miami, where he was making a movie called Retirement. He was 87 years old.
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