Magazine article National Urban League. The State of Black America

In Memoriam: OSSIE DAVIS

Magazine article National Urban League. The State of Black America

In Memoriam: OSSIE DAVIS

Article excerpt

Actor, director, civil rights activist and National Urban League stalwart Ossie Davis, 87, died Feb. 4,2005, while working on a film in Miami Beach, Fla. Authorities said the stage and screen giant apparently died of natural causes.

While Davis was best known for his many acclaimed appearances in movies, television and Broadway productions, he and his wife, actress Ruby Dee, were intimately involved over the years in the cause of civil rights. Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo told the Associated Press that Davis' "greatness as a human being went far beyond his excellence as an actor. He and his wife were activists and they took it seriously."

The film and television star joined hi 1963's historic March on Washington, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Davis also befriended civil rights leader Malcolm X and delivered his eulogy in 1965 following the fiery activist's assassination in New York City. Davis described Malcolm X as "our own black shining prince."

Davis, the eldest of five children, was born in 1917 in Cogdell, Ga., but spent most of his formative years in Waycross and Valdosta. He attended Washington, D.C.'s Howard University in 1935, majoring in drama His formal acting career began four years later in Harlem, where he joined the Rose McClendon Players and traveled in circles that included some of the most prominent black figures of the time, including W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes and A. Philip Randolph.

After serving as an Army surgical technician during World War II, Davis returned to New York and made his 1946 Broadway debut in "Jeb," a play that, fittingly enough, featured the trials and tribulations of a soldier home from the front. …

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