Distinguished actress, writer, producer, and civil rights leader Ruby Dee will receive the Harvard Foundation’s 2007 Humanitarian Award when she delivers the annual Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Lecture in Appleton Chapel of the Memorial Church on April 17 at 5 p.m. A reception and book signing will be held in the Phillips Brooks House Parlor Room from 6 to 7 p.m.
“Ruby Dee is an enduring symbol of artistic excellence in American theater and film,” said S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation. “For over a half century, she has given masterful stage and screen performances that have awed and inspired Americans of all backgrounds. Harvard is proud to honor her achievements, her gifts, and her many contributions to American arts and humanitarianism.”
Born in Cleveland, Dee grew up in Harlem, where she began her career as a member of the American Negro Theater. She received her B.A. from Hunter College and later studied acting with Paul Mann, Lloyd Richards, and Morris Carnovsky. Dee is well-known for her role as Ruth in “A Raisin in the Sun” and her starring roles in “The Jackie Robinson Story,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Decoration Day,” for which she received an Emmy award in 1991.
In 1988, Dee was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. With her late husband, Ossie Davis, she has been inducted into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award Hall of Fame, awarded the Silver Circle Award by the Academy of Television Arts and Science, the National Medal of Arts Award, and the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In December 2004, Dee and Davis were recipients of the John F. Kennedy Center Honors.
Both Dee and her late husband were active social and intellectual leaders in the American Civil Rights Movement, and advanced the Civil Rights agenda through their creations in theater and on screen. She describes herself as a “servant of movements that advanced human rights, and challenged poverty, ignorance, injustice, and tyranny.”
The Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Lecture was created to honor the life and work of the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, who along with interim and then-President Derek C. Bok founded the Harvard Foundation 25 years ago.
Previous recipients of the Humanitarian Award have included Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel, John Hume, the Rev. Jose Ramos Horta, and Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu; the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.; the Rev. Byers Naude of South Africa; David Ho, AIDS researcher; Lauro Cavazos, former secretary of education; Mae Jemison, astronaut; Richard West, founder of the Smithsonian’s Native American Museum; James Earl Jones, actor; Wilma Mankiller, chief of the Cherokee Nation; Louis W. Sullivan, U.S. secretary of health and human services; Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, human rights advocate; Sharon Stone, actress; Tommy Hilfiger, apparel designer; and Per Wästberg, chair of the Nobel Prize Committee of the Swedish Academy, to name a few.