Ruby Dee

Jennifer Graylock

Ruby Dee, an actress and civil rights activist who earned an Oscar nomination for playing Denzel Washington's mother in the film American Gangster, has died at age 91.

The Cleveland-born actress passed away peacefully at her home in New Rochelle, New York on Wednesday, her agent told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, June 12. Dee was reportedly surrounded by family and friends at the time.

Her husband of 56 years, Ossie Davis, died in 2005. The two took part in Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington. The couple, who are parents to three children, appeared together in more than 30 film and TV projects, including the 1963 movie Gone Are The Days!, the 1994 miniseries The Stand, based on Stephen King's hit horror novel and a 1999 Christmas-themed episode of Touched By an Angel.

Ruby Dee

Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

Dee, who was born in 1924 and began her on-screen acting career in the mid-1940s. She also starred in the 1961 movie A Raisin in the Sun and co-starred with her husband in Spike Lee's 1989 film Do the Right Thing and the director's 1991 movie Jungle Fever. All three films explored the topic of racism in America.

In 2007, she played Mama Lucas in the gritty film American Gangster. The movie, which starred Washington as crime and drug lord Frank Lucas, earned Dee, 83 at the time, her first and only Oscar nomination. She lost to Tilda Swinton of Michael Clayton.

Dee also won an Emmy for her role in the 1990 TV movie Decoration Day and earned a total of six Emmy nominations throughout her career.

The actress' most recent film project was King Dog, a yet-to-be-released crime drama starring Ice-T and wife Coco Austin.

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