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Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis

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Ossie Davis was an American film actor, director, poet, playwright, writer, and social activist.

Early years


Davis was born Raiford Chatman Davis in Cogdell, Clinch County, Georgia
Clinch County, Georgia
Clinch County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. It was created on February 14, 1850, named in honor of Duncan Lamont Clinch. As of 2000, the population is 6,878. The 2007 Census Estimate shows a population of 6,992...

, a son of Kince Charles Davis, a railway construction engineer, and his wife Laura (née Cooper). The name Ossie came from a county clerk who misheard his mother's pronunciation of his initials "R.C." when he was born. So he inadvertently became "Ossie" when his mother told the courthouse clerk in Clinch River, Ga., who was filing his birth certificate that his name was R.C. Davis. The clerk thought she had said, Ossie Davis, and she was not about to argue with a white person. Davis experienced racism from an early age as the KKK threatened to shoot his father, whose job they felt was too advanced for a black man to have. Following the wishes of his parents, he attended Howard University
Howard University
Howard University is a federally chartered, non-profit, private, coeducational, nonsectarian, historically black university located in Washington, D.C., United States...

 but dropped out in 1939 to fulfill his acting career in New York; he later attended Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 School of General Studies. His acting career, which spanned seven decades, began in 1939 with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

. He made his film debut in 1950 in the Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

 film No Way Out
No Way Out (1950 film)
No Way Out is a black-and-white film noir directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and starring Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, Stephen McNally, and Sidney Poitier...

. He voiced Anansi
Anansi
Anansi the trickster is a spider, and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore.He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man...

 the spider on the PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

 children's television series Sesame Street
Sesame Street
Sesame Street has undergone significant changes in its history. According to writer Michael Davis, by the mid-1970s the show had become "an American institution". The cast and crew expanded during this time, including the hiring of women in the crew and additional minorities in the cast. The...

in its animation segments.

Career


When Davis wanted to pursue a career in acting, he ran into the usual roadblocks that blacks suffered at that time as they generally could only portray stereotypical characters such as Stepin Fetchit
Stepin Fetchit
Stepin Fetchit was the stage name of American comedian and film actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry....

. Instead, he tried to follow the example of Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

 and play more distinguished characters. When he found it necessary to play a Pullman
Pullman Company
The Pullman Palace Car Company, founded by George Pullman, manufactured railroad cars in the mid-to-late 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century, during the boom of railroads in the United States. Pullman developed the sleeping car which carried his name into the 1980s...

 porter
Sleeping car
The sleeping car or sleeper is a railway/railroad passenger car that can accommodate all its passengers in beds of one kind or another, primarily for the purpose of making nighttime travel more restful. The first such cars saw sporadic use on American railroads in the 1830s and could be configured...

 or a butler, he tried to portray the character seriously and not in a stereotypical manner.

In addition to acting, Davis, along with Melvin Van Peebles
Melvin Van Peebles
Melvin "Block" Van Peebles is an American actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer.He is most famous for creating the acclaimed film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which heralded a new era of African American focused films...

, and Gordon Parks
Gordon Parks
Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director...

 was one of the notable African American directors of his generation: he directed movies like Gordon's War
Gordon's War
Gordon's War is a 1973 action film written by Howard Friedlander and Ed Spielman, and directed by Ossie Davis. It stars Paul Winfield as Gordon Hudson.-Synopsis:...

, Black Girl and the far famed action film Cotton Comes to Harlem . Along with Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby
William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at various clubs, then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show, I Spy. He later starred in his own series, the...

 and Poitier, Davis was one of a handful of African American actors able to find commercial success while avoiding stereotypical roles prior to 1970, which also included a significant role in the 1965 movie The Hill
The Hill (film)
The Hill is a 1965 film directed by Sidney Lumet, set in a British army prison in North Africa in World War II. It stars Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave.-Plot:...

alongside Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Sir Thomas Sean Connery , better known as Sean Connery, is a Scottish actor and producer who has won an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globes Sir Thomas Sean Connery (born 25 August 1930), better known as Sean Connery, is a Scottish actor and producer who has won an Academy...

 plus roles in The Cardinal
The Cardinal
The Cardinal is a 1963 film which was produced independently and directed by Otto Preminger, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. The screenplay was written by Robert Dozier, based on the novel by Henry Morton Robinson....

and The Scalphunters
The Scalphunters
The Scalphunters is a 1968 American Western film starring Burt Lancaster, Ossie Davis and Telly Savalas. The film was directed by Sydney Pollack, with the score written by Elmer Bernstein...

. However, Davis never had the tremendous commercial or critical success that Cosby and Poitier enjoyed. As a playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, Davis wrote Paul Robeson: All-American, which is frequently performed in theatre programs for young audiences.

Davis found recognition late in his life by working in several of director Spike Lee
Spike Lee
Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983....

's films, including Do The Right Thing
Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American dramedy produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who is also a featured actor in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro. It is also notably the...

, Jungle Fever
Jungle Fever
Jungle Fever is a 1991 American drama film directed by Spike Lee, starring Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra. It was Lee's fifth feature-length film. The film mainly explores interracial relationships...

, She Hate Me
She Hate Me
She Hate Me is a 2004 independent comedy-drama film directed by Spike Lee and starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Bai Ling and John Turturro....

and Get on the Bus
Get on the Bus
Get on the Bus is a 1996 film about a group of African-American men who are taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March. The film was directed by Spike Lee and premiered on the one-year anniversary of the march....

. He also found work as a commercial voice-over
Voice-over
Voice-over is a production technique where a voice which is not part of the narrative is used in a radio, television production, filmmaking, theatre, or other presentations...

 artist and served as the narrator of the early-1990s CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 sitcom Evening Shade
Evening Shade
Evening Shade was an American sitcom television series that aired on CBS from 1990 to 1994. The series starred Burt Reynolds as Wood Newton, an ex-professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who returns to rural Evening Shade, Arkansas to coach a high school football team with a long...

, starring Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds
Burton Leon "Burt" Reynolds, Jr. is an American actor. Some of his memorable roles include Bo 'Bandit' Darville in Smokey and the Bandit, Lewis Medlock in Deliverance, Bobby "Gator" McCluskey in White Lightning and sequel Gator, Paul Crewe and Coach Nate Scarborough in The Longest Yard and its...

, where he also played one of the residents of a small southern town.

In 1999, he appeared as a theater caretaker in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is an American progressive metal band founded in 1993 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. Since then, TSO sold nearly 8...

 film The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
The Ghosts of Christmas Eve is a 1999 made-for-TV concert film showcasing a Christmas music performance by Trans-Siberian Orchestra with guest performers Michael Crawford and Jewel...

, which was released on DVD 2 years later.

In 1995, Davis and wife Ruby Dee were awarded the National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

. They were also recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors
Kennedy Center Honors
The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. The Honors have been presented annually since 1978 in Washington, D.C., during gala weekend-long events which culminate in a performance for—and...

 in 2004. They were also named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 1989.

His last role was a several episode guest role on the Showtime drama series The L Word
The L Word
The L Word is an American co-production television drama series originally shown on Showtime portraying the lives of a group of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their friends, family and lovers in the trendy Greater Los Angeles, California city of West Hollywood...

, as a father struggling with the acceptance of his daughter Bette
Bette Porter
Bette Porter is a fictional character on the Showtime television network series The L Word, played by Jennifer Beals. While she is portrayed as the one true love of Tina Kennard, she is a successful career woman who often struggles with commitment in her intimate relationships, often sabotaging...

 (Jennifer Beals
Jennifer Beals
Jennifer Beals is an American actress and a former teen model. She is known for her roles as Alexandra "Alex" Owens in the 1983 film Flashdance, and as Bette Porter on the Showtime drama series The L Word. She earned an NAACP Image Award and a Golden Globe Award nomination for the former...

) parenting a child with her lesbian partner. In his final episodes, his character was taken ill and died. His wife Ruby Dee was present during the filming of his own death scene. That episode, which aired shortly after Davis's own death, aired with a dedication to the actor.

In 2003, both Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee starred and narrated in the HBO film Unchained Memories, a tribute to the
WPA
Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects...

 slave narratives.

At the 49th Grammy Awards in 2007, he and his wife were tied winners in the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
The Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album has been awarded since 1959. The award had several minor name changes:*In 1959 the award was known as Best Performance, Documentary or Spoken Word...

 with former President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

.

Personal life


In 1948, Davis married actress Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee is an American actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and activist, perhaps best known for co-starring in the film A Raisin in the Sun and the film American Gangster for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.-Early years:Dee was born Ruby...

; in their joint autobiography With Ossie and Ruby, they described their decision to have an open marriage
Open marriage
Open marriage typically refers to a marriage in which the partners agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without this being regarded as infidelity. There are many different styles of open marriage, with the partners having varying levels of input on their spouse's...

 (later changing their minds). Their son Guy Davis
Guy Davis (musician)
Guy Davis is an American blues guitarist and banjo player, actor, and musician. He is the son of actors Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis.-Davis' roots:Davis says his blues music is inspired by the southern speech of his grandmother...

 is a blues musician and former actor, who appeared in the film Beat Street
Beat Street
Beat Street is a 1984 drama film, following Wild Style in featuring New York City hip hop culture of the early 1980s; breakdancing, DJing, and graffiti.-Plot:...

and the daytime soap opera One Life to Live
One Life to Live
One Life to Live is an American soap opera which debuted on July 15, 1968 and has been broadcast on the ABC television network. Created by Agnes Nixon, the series was the first daytime drama to primarily feature racially and socioeconomically diverse characters and consistently emphasize social...

.
Their daughters are Nora Davis Day and Hasna Muhammad.
They were well known as civil rights
African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to the movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring voting rights to them. This article covers the phase of the movement between 1955 and 1968, particularly in the South...

 activists, and were close personal friends of Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

, Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to...

, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

 and other icons of the era. Davis and Dee's deep involvement in the movement is characterized by how instrumental they were in organizing the 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the largest political rally for human rights in United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr...

, even to the point of serving as emcee
Master of Ceremonies
A Master of Ceremonies , or compere, is the host of a staged event or similar performance.An MC usually presents performers, speaks to the audience, and generally keeps the event moving....

. Davis, alongside Ahmed Osman
Ahmed Osman
Ahmed Osman is an Egyptian-born author. He has put forward a number of theories, some revisionist in nature, about Ancient Egypt and the origins of Judaism and Christianity.-Biography:...

, delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X. He re-read part of this eulogy at the end of Spike Lee's film Malcolm X
Malcolm X (film)
Malcolm X is a 1992 biographical motion picture about the Muslim-American figure Malcolm X . It was co-written, co-produced, and directed by Spike Lee. It stars Denzel Washington as the titular character. It co-stars Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman, Jr., and Delroy Lindo...

. He also delivered a stirring tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, at a memorial in New York's Central Park the day after King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee.

Death


Davis was found dead in a Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...

 hotel room on February 4, 2005. An official cause of death was not released, but he had had heart problems for years and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia. His last role had been the father of Bette Porter
Bette Porter
Bette Porter is a fictional character on the Showtime television network series The L Word, played by Jennifer Beals. While she is portrayed as the one true love of Tina Kennard, she is a successful career woman who often struggles with commitment in her intimate relationships, often sabotaging...

 in The L Word
The L Word
The L Word is an American co-production television drama series originally shown on Showtime portraying the lives of a group of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their friends, family and lovers in the trendy Greater Los Angeles, California city of West Hollywood...

, a role which ended with his death from prostate cancer in her home. The episode, which was broadcast after Davis' death, was dedicated to his memory.

Director

  • Cotton Comes to Harlem
    Cotton Comes to Harlem (film)
    Cotton Comes to Harlem is a 1970 blaxploitation film co-written and directed by Ossie Davis and starring Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, and Redd Foxx: it is based on Chester Himes' novel of the same name...

    (1970)
  • Black Girl (1972)
  • Gordon's War
    Gordon's War
    Gordon's War is a 1973 action film written by Howard Friedlander and Ed Spielman, and directed by Ossie Davis. It stars Paul Winfield as Gordon Hudson.-Synopsis:...

    (1973)
  • Kongi's Harvest
    Kongi's Harvest (film)
    Kongi's Harvest is a 1973 film directed by Ossie Davis, from a screenplay by Wole Soyinka based on Soyinka's 1965 play Kongi's Harvest.-Production:The film was shot in Nigeria...

    (1973)
  • Countdown at Kusini (1976)

Film



  • No Way Out
    No Way Out (1950 film)
    No Way Out is a black-and-white film noir directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and starring Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, Stephen McNally, and Sidney Poitier...

    (1950)
  • Fourteen Hours
    Fourteen Hours
    Fourteen Hours is a 1951 drama film directed by Henry Hathaway, which tells the story of a New York police officer trying to stop a despondent man from jumping to his death from the fifteenth floor of a hotel....

  • Gone Are the Days! (1963)
  • The Joe Louis Story (1953)
  • The Cardinal
    The Cardinal
    The Cardinal is a 1963 film which was produced independently and directed by Otto Preminger, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. The screenplay was written by Robert Dozier, based on the novel by Henry Morton Robinson....

    (1963)
  • Shock Treatment (1964)
  • The Hill
    The Hill (film)
    The Hill is a 1965 film directed by Sidney Lumet, set in a British army prison in North Africa in World War II. It stars Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave.-Plot:...

    (1965)
  • A Man Called Adam (1966)
  • The Scalphunters
    The Scalphunters
    The Scalphunters is a 1968 American Western film starring Burt Lancaster, Ossie Davis and Telly Savalas. The film was directed by Sydney Pollack, with the score written by Elmer Bernstein...

    (1968)
  • Sam Whiskey
    Sam Whiskey
    Sam Whiskey is a 1969 comedy-western film directed by Arnold Laven and starring Burt Reynolds a decade before he zoomed to superstar status in the late 1970s. Angie Dickinson, Clint Walker and Ossie Davis co-star....

    (1969)
  • Slaves
    Slaves (film)
    Slaves is a 1969 drama film directed by Herbert Biberman. It was entered into the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. The film stars Dionne Warwick , Ossie Davis, and Stephen Boyd.-Plot:...

    (1969)
  • The Silent Revolution (1972)
  • Wattstax
    Wattstax
    Wattstax is a 1973 documentary film by Mel Stuart that focused on the 1972 Wattstax music festival and the African American community of Watts in Los Angeles, California. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Documentary Film in 1974...

    (1973)
  • Let's Do It Again (1975)
  • Countdown at Kusini (1976)
  • Hot Stuff
    Hot Stuff (1979 film)
    Hot Stuff is a 1979 comedy film that starred Dom DeLuise, Suzanne Pleshette, Jerry Reed and Ossie Davis. Along with acting in the title, Dom DeLuise also directed the movie...

    (1979)
  • Death of a Prophet (1981)

  • The House of God
    The House of God
    The House of God is a satirical novel by Samuel Shem , published in 1978. It portrays the psychological harm done to medical interns during the course of medical internship in the early 1970s.-Storyline:...

    (1984)
  • Harry & Son
    Harry & Son
    Harry & Son is a 1984 American drama film directed by Paul Newman, who also stars. The screenplay by Newman and Ronald Buck focuses on the relationship between a blue-collar worker and his son, who fails at various odd jobs while aspiring to be a writer. Much of the film was shot in Lake Worth, FL...

    (1984)
  • Avenging Angel
    Avenging Angel (1985 film)
    Avenging Angel is a 1985 film directed by Robert Vincent O'Neill and written by Robert Vincent O'Neill with Joseph Michael Cala. The movie is a sequel to 1984's Angel and was followed by the 1988 film Angel III: The Final Chapter and Angel 4: Undercover...

    (1985)
  • School Daze
    School Daze
    School Daze is a 1988 American musical-drama film, written and directed by Spike Lee, and starring Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin...

    (1988)
  • Do the Right Thing
    Do the Right Thing
    Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American dramedy produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who is also a featured actor in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro. It is also notably the...

    (1989)
  • Joe Versus the Volcano
    Joe Versus the Volcano
    Joe Versus the Volcano is a 1990 comedy film written and directed by John Patrick Shanley and starring Tom Hanks and—in three roles—Meg Ryan. The film is writer Shanley's directorial debut and the first of three films pairing Hanks and Ryan....

    (1990)
  • Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker (1991)
  • Jungle Fever
    Jungle Fever
    Jungle Fever is a 1991 American drama film directed by Spike Lee, starring Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra. It was Lee's fifth feature-length film. The film mainly explores interracial relationships...

    (1991)
  • Gladiator
    Gladiator (1992 film)
    Gladiator is a 1992 sport film, directed by Rowdy Herrington, and starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., James Marshall, Brian Dennehy, and Robert Loggia. The film tells the story of two teenagers trapped in the world of illegal underground boxing. One is fighting to pay off gambling debts accumulated by his...

    (1992)
  • Malcolm X
    Malcolm X (film)
    Malcolm X is a 1992 biographical motion picture about the Muslim-American figure Malcolm X . It was co-written, co-produced, and directed by Spike Lee. It stars Denzel Washington as the titular character. It co-stars Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman, Jr., and Delroy Lindo...

    (1992)
  • Cop and a 1/2
    Cop and a 1/2
    Cop and a Half is a 1993 American family film directed by Henry Winkler, and starring Burt Reynolds and Norman D. Golden II. Cop and a Half was actor Ray Sharkey's final film.-Synopsis:...

    (1993)
  • Grumpy Old Men
    Grumpy Old Men (film)
    Grumpy Old Men is a 1993 American romantic comedy film starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Ann-Margret, with Burgess Meredith, Daryl Hannah, Kevin Pollak, Katie Sagona, Ossie Davis, and Buck Henry. Directed by Donald Petrie, the screenplay was written by Mark Steven Johnson, who also wrote...

    (1993)
  • The Client (1994)
  • Get on the Bus
    Get on the Bus
    Get on the Bus is a 1996 film about a group of African-American men who are taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March. The film was directed by Spike Lee and premiered on the one-year anniversary of the march....

    (1996)
  • I'm Not Rappaport
    I'm Not Rappaport
    I'm Not Rappaport is a play by Herb Gardner originally staged by Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1984. Its Broadway debut production, directed by Daniel Sullivan, starring Judd Hirsch, Cleavon Little, Jace Alexander, and Mercedes Ruehl, opened on November 19, 1985 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran...

    (1996)
  • 4 Little Girls
    4 Little Girls
    4 Little Girls is a 1997 American historical documentary film about the 1963 murder of four African-American girls during the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, United States. It was directed by Spike Lee and nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Documentary".The incident...

    (1997)
  • Alyson's Closet (1998)

  • Dr. Dolittle
    Dr. Dolittle (film)
    Dr. Dolittle is a 1998 American family comedy film starring Eddie Murphy as a doctor who discovers that he has the ability to talk to animals...

    (1998)
  • The Unfinished Journey (1999)
  • The Black And The White (1999)
  • The Gospel According to Mr. Allen (2000)
  • Dinosaur
    Dinosaur (film)
    Dinosaur is a 2000 American computer-animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on May 19, 2000, and is the 39th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series...

    (2000) (voice)
  • Here's to Life! (2000)
  • Voice of the Voiceless (2001)
  • Why Can't We Be a Family Again?
    Why Can't We Be a Family Again?
    Why Can't We Be a Family Again? is a 2002 short documentary film directed by Murray Nossel. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short....

    (2002)
  • Bubba Ho-tep
    Bubba Ho-tep
    Bubba Ho-tep is a 2002 American comedy horror drama film starring Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley — now a resident in a nursing home. The film also stars Ossie Davis as Jack, a black man who claims to be John F. Kennedy, explaining that he was patched up after the assassination, dyed black,...

    (2002)
  • Unchained Memories
    Unchained Memories
    Unchained Memories is a 2003 documentary films about the stories of former slaves interviewed during the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project. This HBO film interpretation directed by Ed Bell and Thomas Lennon is a compilation of slave narratives, narrated by actors, emulating the...

    (2003)
  • Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003)
  • Beah: A Black Woman Speaks (2003)
  • BAADASSSSS!
    BAADASSSSS!
    BAADASSSSS! is a 2003 American biopic, written, produced, directed by, and starring Mario Van Peebles. The film is based on the struggles of Van Peebles' father Melvin Van Peebles , as he attempts to film and distribute Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, a film that was widely credited with showing...

    (2003)
  • She Hate Me
    She Hate Me
    She Hate Me is a 2004 independent comedy-drama film directed by Spike Lee and starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Bai Ling and John Turturro....

    (2004)
  • Proud
    Proud (film)
    Proud is a 2004 film directed by Mary Pat Kelly and stars veteran actor and activist Ossie Davis. The motion picture was filmed in Buffalo, NY. The screenplay was written by Kelly based on her non-fiction book Proudly We Served ....

    (2004)
  • A Trumpet at the Walls of Jericho (2005)


Television



  • The Emperor Jones
    The Emperor Jones (1955 film)
    The Emperor Jones is a 1955 film adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play of the same title produced by the Kraft Television Theatre anthology series starring Ossie Davis in the title role....

    (1955)
  • Seven Times Monday (1962)
  • Car 54 Where Are You? (1963)
  • The Fugitive
    The Fugitive (TV series)
    The Fugitive is an American drama series produced by QM Productions and United Artists Television that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967. David Janssen stars as Richard Kimble, a doctor from the fictional town of Stafford, Indiana, who is falsely convicted of his wife's murder and given the death...

    (1966)
  • Night Gallery
    Night Gallery
    Night Gallery is an American anthology series that aired on NBC from 1970 to 1973, featuring stories of horror and the macabre. Rod Serling, who had gained fame from an earlier series, The Twilight Zone, served both as the on-air host of Night Gallery and as a major contributor of scripts, although...

    (1969)
  • The Tenth Level (1975)
  • Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid (1977)
  • King (1978) (miniseries)
  • Roots: The Next Generations
    Roots: The Next Generations
    Roots: The Next Generations is a 1979 television miniseries that continues the story of the family of Alex Haley from the 1880s, and their life in Henning, Tennessee, to the 1960s, with Haley researching his family history and his travels to Africa to learn of his ancestor, Kunta Kinte...

    (1979)
  • Freedom Road (1979)
  • All God's Children (1980)
  • Ossie and Ruby! (1980–1981)
  • Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy 'Satchel' Paige (1981)

  • B.L. Stryker
    B.L. Stryker
    B.L Stryker is an American detective drama that aired on ABC from February 13, 1989 to May 1990 as part of the ABC Mystery Movie along with Gideon Oliver, Columbo and Kojak. The series was executive produced by Tom Selleck.-Premise:...

    (1989–1990)
  • We'll Take Manhattan (1990)
  • Evening Shade
    Evening Shade
    Evening Shade was an American sitcom television series that aired on CBS from 1990 to 1994. The series starred Burt Reynolds as Wood Newton, an ex-professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who returns to rural Evening Shade, Arkansas to coach a high school football team with a long...

    (1990–1994)
  • Alex Haley's Queen
    Alex Haley's Queen
    Alex Haley's Queen is a miniseries adaptation of the 1993 Alex Haley/David Stevens novel Queen: The Story of an American Family, directed by John Erman and starring Halle Berry in the title role. The film tells the life story of a young slave girl named Queen, and illustrates the problems faced by...

    (1992)
  • The Ernest Green Story
    The Ernest Green Story
    The Ernest Green Story is a made-for-television movie which follows the true story of Ernest Green and eight other African American high school students as they embark on their historic journey to integrate Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.Much of the movie was...

    (1993)
  • The Stand
    The Stand (TV miniseries)
    # Project Blue [1:33]# The Dream Begins [2:08]# On the Road to Kansas [3:57]# The Trashmen in Vegas [1:58]# Headin' West [1:56]# Larry & Nadine [2:38]# Mother Abigail [3:10]# 'Sorry Mister, I Don't Understand' [2:54]# Mid Country [3:22]...

    (1994)
  • Ray Alexander (1994–1995)
  • The Android Affair (1995)
  • The Client (1995–1996)
  • Home of the Brave (1996)
  • Promised Land
    Promised Land (1996 TV series)
    Promised Land is an American drama series which aired on CBS from 1996 to 1999. It was a spin-off from another series, Touched by an Angel.-Plot:...

    (1996–1998)
  • Touched By An Angel (1996–2002)

  • Miss Evers' Boys (1997)
  • 12 Angry Men
    12 Angry Men (1997 film)
    12 Angry Men is a 1997 television film directed by William Friedkin, adapted from the Reginald Rose teleplay of the same title.-Plot:After the final closing arguments have been presented to the judge, she gives her instructions to the jury. In the United States , the verdict in criminal cases must...

    (1997)
  • A Vow to Cherish (1999)
  • The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
    The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
    The Ghosts of Christmas Eve is a 1999 made-for-TV concert film showcasing a Christmas music performance by Trans-Siberian Orchestra with guest performers Michael Crawford and Jewel...

    (1999)
  • The Secret Path (1999)
  • The Soul Collector
    The Soul Collector
    -Plot:Zach is a soul collector, an angel who collects souls and takes them up to heaven. He is sent to earth to live as a human being for thirty days on a Texas cattle ranch. There, he falls in love with the ranch owner, Rebecca , a widowed single mother, and he influences the lives of her son and...

    (1999)
  • Finding Buck McHenry (2000)
  • Legend of the Candy Cane (2001)
  • The Feast of All Saints
    The Feast of All Saints
    The Feast of All Saints is a novel by Anne Rice.-Plot summary:This novel is about the gens de couleur libres, or free people of color, who lived in New Orleans before the Civil War. The gens de couleur libres were the descendants of European settlers of Louisiana, particularly the French and...

    (2001)
  • Deacons for Defense (2003)
  • The L Word
    The L Word
    The L Word is an American co-production television drama series originally shown on Showtime portraying the lives of a group of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their friends, family and lovers in the trendy Greater Los Angeles, California city of West Hollywood...

    (2004–2005)

Stage

  • Jeb (February 21–28, 1946)
  • The Leading Lady (October 18–23, 1948)
  • The Smile of the World (January 12–15, 1949)
  • The Wisteria Trees (March 29 - September 16, 1950)
  • The Green Pastures (Revival) (March 15 - April 21, 1951)
  • Remains to Be Seen (October 3, 1951 - March 22, 1952)
  • Touchstone (February 3–7, 1953)
  • Jamaica
    Jamaica (musical)
    Jamaica is a musical with a book by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, lyrics by Harburg, and music by Harold Arlen. Harburg was blacklisted in Hollywood at the time of the writing of the musical...

    (October 31, 1957 - April 11, 1959)
  • A Raisin in the Sun
    A Raisin in the Sun
    A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes...

    (March 11, 1959 - June 25, 1960) (replacing Sidney Poitier
    Sidney Poitier
    Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

    )
  • Purlie Victorious (September 28, 1961 - May 12, 1962)
  • The Zulu and the Zayda (November 10, 1965 - April 16, 1966)
  • I'm Not Rappaport
    I'm Not Rappaport
    I'm Not Rappaport is a play by Herb Gardner originally staged by Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1984. Its Broadway debut production, directed by Daniel Sullivan, starring Judd Hirsch, Cleavon Little, Jace Alexander, and Mercedes Ruehl, opened on November 19, 1985 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran...

    (November 19, 1985 - January 17, 1988) (replacing Cleavon Little
    Cleavon Little
    Cleavon Jake Little was an American film and theatre actor.Little was widely known for his lead role as Sheriff Bart in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles. He also was the irreverent Dr...

    )
  • A Celebration of Paul Robeson (October 30, 1988) (Benefit Concert)

Discography

  • Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1: (Folkways Records
    Folkways Records
    Folkways Records was a record label founded by Moses Asch that documented folk, world, and children's music. It was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, and is now part of Smithsonian Folkways.-History:...

    , 1966)
  • Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 2: (Folkways, 1966)
  • Frederick Douglass' The Meaning of July 4 for the Negro: (Folkways, 1975)
  • Frederick Douglass' Speeches inc. The Dred Scott Decision: (Folkways, 1976)


External links