Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee

Ossie & Ruby's Journey Through the 20th & 21st Centuries

Timeline 1940-1959: < Part 1 | Part 2 • Timeline 1960-1979


W.E.B. Du Bois leaves the NAACP for the Council on African Affairs.

Former Vice-President Henry Wallace runs for President on the Progressive Party ticket, co-founded by Paul Robeson. Ossie is active in support of Wallace.


Ossie Davis on Paul Robeson.

December 9 Ossie and Ruby get married

Ossie and Ruby on getting married.

After Robeson criticizes the US at the 1949 World Peace Conference in Paris, the State Department revokes his passport.

The publication Red Channels lists 151 entertainers and broadcast journalists with affiliations to allegedly subversive organizations. Those named are blacklisted in the movie and broadcast industries unless they clear their names by testifying before HUAC).

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks becomes the first African American to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize (for Annie Allen).

Ossie and Ruby’s first child, Nora, is born
Ossie’s playwriting debut, Alice in Wonder, is staged with Ruby in the title role.

Second child, Guy, is born

After speaking at a rally to secure clemency for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Ruby is listed as a “fellow traveler” in Ed Sullivan’s newspaper column.
Brown v. Board of Education ends segregation in public schools.

Ossie writes and stages The People of Clarendon County for Local 1199’s Negro History Week program, marking the beginning of a long relationship with the union and its cultural director, Moe Foner.

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till is tortured and murdered in Money, Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

  In Montgomery, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger. Her subsequent arrest spurs a year-long bus boycott, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ossie on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Third child, La Verne (now known as Hasna), is born.

Ossie introduces a motion calling for Actor’s Equity to support Paul Robeson’s bid to have his passport reinstated. One week later, he and Ruby are subpoenaed to testify at a New York HUAC hearing.

Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Ruby originates the role of Ruth. Ossie assumes the role of Walter Lee after Sidney Poitier leaves the production.

Timeline 1940-1959: < Part 1 | Part 2 • Timeline 1960-1979

Scene from Othello with Paul Robeson as Othello, Theatre Guild Production, Broadway, 1943-44. Library of Congress

Ossie and Ruby at home, 1950s.
Dee-Davis Archives

Ruby with Sidney Poitier, 1958.

Sidney's face in a yellow sun design

A Raisin in the Sun poster for original Broadway production, 1959.