Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee

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

Timeline 1960-1979: Part 1 | Part 2 >

1961 The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) begins to organize Freedom Rides throughout the South to desegregate interstate public bus travel. To support these efforts, the first live performance of Ossie’s play, Purlie Victorious, is a benefit for CORE.

Purlie Victorious opens on Broadway, runs for 261 performances.

1962
Malcolm X becomes national minister of the Nation of Islam.

Ruby’s early impressions of Malcolm X.

1963
Ossie co-produces an off-Broadway musical, Ballad For Bimshire, with associates Irving Burgie, Sylvester Leeks, Ewart Guinier, Ed Cambridge, and Loften Mitchell.

W.E.B. Du Bois dies in Ghana.

Ossie and Ruby are emcees at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, is bombed, killing four girls.

Ossie and Ruby — with James Baldwin, John O. Killens, Clarence Jones, Odetta, and others — form the Association of Artists for Freedom, which calls for a Christmas boycott to protest the church bombing, and to make “our Christmas gifts contribution to civil rights organizations.”

1964
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), with other civil-rights groups, organizes “Freedom Summer”—a massive voter registration drive—in Mississippi.

Three CORE civil rights workers—Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman—are murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act, which gives the federal government powers to prosecute discrimination in employment, voting, and education.

1965
Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem. Ossie delivers the eulogy at his funeral.

Ossie recalls Malcolm’s last days.


The Committee of Concerned Mothers, formed by Ruby, Juanita Poitier, and others, raise funds to buy a house for Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s widow, and their six daughters.

The Voting Rights Act is signed into law.

U.S. troop levels in Vietnam reach 200,000.
1966
Ossie and Ruby participate in a “Read-In for Peace in Vietnam.
A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin promote the Freedom Budget for All Americans, a plan to end poverty by 1975.

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale found the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California.

Timeline 1960-1979: Part 1 | Part 2 >


Ossie, Ruby, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. share a birthday cake for the 100th performance of Purlie Victorious.



Ossie speaking outdoors at the March

Ossie at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963.





Read-in for Peace cover

Featured Recording—The Original Read-in for Peace in Vietnam

Ossie, Ruby and other notable figures lift their voices for peace.