Actor and activist Ruby Dee defied the prejudices and racist barriers of her time to forge a decades-long career at the forefront of both the civil rights movement and the evolving, increasingly nuanced representation of Black Americans on-screen. Emerging from Harlem’s American Negro Theater alongside fellow greats like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, Dee frequently combined her art and activism in studio films and passion projects alike, including TAKE A GIANT STEP, one of the first Hollywood movies to tackle systemic racism, and UPTIGHT, a blistering portrait of the Black Power movement made in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Directed by Philip Leacock • 1959 • United States
Starring Johnny Nash, Estelle Hemsley, Ruby Dee
One of the rare 1950s Hollywood films to feature an all-Black leading cast was also one of the first to address systemic racism. Adapted from the Broadway play by Louis S. Peterson, TAKE A GIANT STE...
Directed by Joseph Strick • 1963 • United States
Starring Shelley Winters, Peter Falk, Lee Grant
A powerhouse cast brings Jean Genet’s incendiary political stage play to the screen. In an unnamed city, Madame Irma (Shelley Winters) runs a brothel where customers explore their sexual fantasies th...
Directed by Jules Dassin • 1968 • United States
Starring Julian Mayfield, Ruby Dee
In the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, a band of black activists in Cleveland begin arming themselves for revolution. But when the unstable Tank (Julian Mayfield), increasingly uncomfortable wit...