Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis- 1998
Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis
Married actors, directors, writers, activists and receivers of various awards and honors
Ongoing Legacy of Ossie Davis
By Jeffrey Espenshade
Growing up in America during the early 20th century, especially for an African American family, was no easy task. America would experience its first and second world wars, face economic collapse, and struggle for social justice. For Raiford Chatman (R. C.) Davis growing up during these times would shape him into the influential civil rights activist later known as Ossie. Ossie used his ability of screen writing to be a voice of African Americans, and act as a role model for future generations. Ossie is important to us today because we still face some of the same challenges he did over 60 years ago. Police brutality is something on the news weekly or even daily. Huge strides have been made to change this course, but we still seem to have problems. Even after his passing in 2005, Ossie can still act as a very influential person in the black community and continue to be a role model for the youth growing up in present day.
Before being called Ossie, R. C. had a very inspirational father to look up to while he was growing up in a small town in Georgia. Growing up in his father’s shadow helped develop Ossie’s natural ability to lead and communicate in multiple forms. His father was a very successful railroad engineer all without knowing how to read or write. Ossie was very mesmerized by his father growing up. Not only was his father considered a local legend around his town, it was very rare for an African American to have accomplished so much. Ossie, after dropping out of college, pursued a career in acting. Ossie later would enter the service and enlist to train to become an Army surgeon. Nearing the end of his service Ossie began to write screen plays, one of which was debuted a few years after his return home. Ossie’s success grew rapidly even premiering on Broadway. As his success grew so did his influence on the African American communities and America (Hampton).
Ossie was a man of his community and represented it as such. Ossie by this time was a very matured and well-mannered individual that would do anything to help the people around him or his community. Ossie in a way was like his father to the black community acting as a leader and setting an example. “This is my community, good, bad or indifferent. I'm a part of it. I still feel strongly about my responsibilities to Westchester and my responsibilities to New Rochelle,” said Ossie Davis during an interview when asked about the importance of being involved with the community (Greene). Ossie believed that there had to be a war on racism and was able to attack it due to his voice’s ability to be heard across the nation. As he got older his influence became more impactful. During the 50s and 60s he was the voice for many Black Americans along-side the works of Martin Luther King Jr. “Davis and Rudy Dee’s commitment to the black community went beyond staging dramas; in 1963 they acted as official hosts for the legendary civil rights March on Washington” (Bogle). The way Ossie represented his community was in his work by addressing the issues of inequality and by taking action, marches, nonviolent protests, and speeches.
For Ossie, his voice was through his screen writing and plays. He could present the issues that Black Americans were facing in real life through Broadway. In a way Ossie was challenging the system, he was trying to enact change. As we continue to face our own challenges today it is important to remember Ossie and try to influence change as he would. After researching Ossie Davis, it has impacted the way I see the usefulness in screen writings as it is a form of someone’s expression of themselves. Being able to express oneself while also being able to impact hundreds of thousands of people in his community and the nation is amazing. Ossie Davis will continue to act as an influence even beyond the grave.--
Greene, Donna. “Q&A/Ossie Davis; Involved in a Community Beyond Theater.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Oct. 1998, www.nytimes.com/1998/10/25/nyregion/q-a-ossie-davis-involved-in-a-community-beyond-theater.html.
Bogle, Donald, Blacks in American Film and Television, Garland, 1988.
Funke, Lewis, The Curtain Rises—The Story of Ossie Davis, Grosset & Dunlap, 1971.
Davis, Ossie, and Ruby Dee. With Ossie and Ruby Dee: In This Life Together. New York: Morrow, 1998.
Hampton, Henry. “Interview with Ossie Davis for ‘The Great Depression.’” 29 Aug. 1992.