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2005: Ossie Davis
Ossie Davis Poster
 American Rights at Work pays tribute to the visionary artist and activist Ossie Davis for his lifelong commitment to workers' rights and social justice.

 
(1917-2005)

A gifted actor, playwright, producer, screenwriter, director, and author, Ossie Davis will be remembered as a trailblazing entertainer. His legacy as an activist and artist will live on through the important gifts he left with us through his contributions on stage and on screen, as well as at rallies, marches, and on picket lines.

Mr. Davis remained in the forefront of the country's fight for social progress and observed that "our arts were always, from the very beginning, a means of protest."

Throughout their long and distinguished careers, he and his wife of 56 years, Ruby Dee, never failed to use their voices and their influence to push the country towards fulfilling its promises for all Americans. The couple lent their talents to the struggles of working people and worked closely with their dear friend, labor legend Moe Foner. "He taught us the unity of struggle between Black folks and labor," they said.

Believing in the power of the arts to teach Americans about critical social issues, Mr. Davis and Ms. Dee wrote and performed in original plays expressly for audiences of union members. With the help of friends like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, the couple didn't just entertain--they educated and enlightened workers about subjects that no one else was talking about, like segregation and lynching.

Their creative efforts evolved into SEIU Local 1199's pioneering cultural resource project for workers, Bread and Roses. Mr. Davis chaired the program until his death and was deeply involved with the healthcare union's organizing efforts for over six decades.