December 18, 1917 Raiford Chatman “Ossie” Davis, actor, director, playwright and social activist, was born in Cogdell, Georgia.
Davis began his acting career in 1939 with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem and made his film debut in 1950 in “No Way Out.” Over the next 55 years, he appeared in almost 50 movies, including Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “Jungle Fever” (1991), “Malcolm X” (1992), and “She Hate Me” (2004).
His last role was in the Showtime drama series “The L Word.” Davis also directed five films, including “Cotton Comes to Harlem” (1970) and “Gordon’s War” (1973). Davis and his wife, Ruby Dee, were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement and were instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Davis delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X and a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at a memorial in New York City.
Davis and Dee were inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 1989 and in 2004 they were the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. In 1995, Davis and Dee were presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William Clinton. Davis and Dee published their memoir, “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together,” in 1998.