Legendary actress and activist Ruby Dee passes away

Posted June 13th, 2014 by

CNN reports that Ruby Dee, the remarkable actress and Civil Rights activist, passed away peacefully on June 11th at her home in New Rochelle, New York.

During the 1960s, Dee was acquainted with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. With her husband Ossie Davis, she was a key figure in the 1963 March on Washington.

Ossie, who passed away in 2005, will be featured in our film, The Rosenwald Schools, talking about Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Davis was a student at Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1939. He was inspired by the optimism of Anderson’s rendition of My Country, ‘Tis of Thee on the National Mall, a wonderful performance made more poignant by the D.A.R.’s refusal to allow her to appear at Constitution Hall. Ossie, who passed away in 2005, was filmed discussing the concert for a 1993 documentary entitled The Great Depression discussing the impact of Anderson’s concert on him as a young man.

Ruby Dee was a remarkable actress of stage and screen for more than half a century, starring on Broadway and in films like 1989’s Do the Right Thing and 1961’s A Raisin in the Sun. We will include excerpts from the latter film in The Rosenwald Schools‘ section on Chicago’s crowded “kitchenette” apartment buildings.


Ruby Dee with Sidney Poitier in the 1959 Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

New documentary about Jensen, who designed grounds of Rosenwald’s Ravinia home

Posted June 9th, 2014 by

A new documentary by filmmaker Carey Lundin, entitled Jens Jensen: The Living Green will be shown at Millennium Park in Chicago on June 19th, with a simultaneous broadcast on the Chicago area public television channel WTTW.

The film is about Jensen, a Danish-born landscape architect, naturalist and designer of many Chicago area green spaces. In addition to Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory and Columbus Park, Jensen designed two parks on the north shore connected with the Rosenwald family. We’ve written about them on this blog. Jensen designed the estate of Julius Rosenwald’s suburban home in Ravinia (which today lives on as “Rosewood Beach”) and was a close acquaintance of Augusta Rosenwald, who has a commemorative boulder in the town of Highland Park’s downtown pocket park, “Jens Jensen Park.”

Lundin’s film looks to be an excellent history of Jensen’s life that also brings out what his work can offer for those designing and improving today’s urban spaces. For more information about the screening in Chicago, go to jenjensenthelivinggreen.org.

Rosenwald connection at the National Gallery of Art

Posted June 9th, 2014 by

Ever since the new Degas/Cassatt show opened at the National Gallery of Art here in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago, I’ve been meaning to check it out. The NGA came up recently on The Rosenwald Schools production when I interviewed Linda Levy, whose grandfather Lessing Rosenwald (JR’s first son) donated a substantial amount of art to the venerable gallery.


Lessing Rosenwald in later years
Photo credit: The estate of Nancy Salazar

Because I had two good reasons to visit the NGA this weekend I decided to make the trip with my editor, Marian Hunter. When I arrived at the gallery, I asked a tour guide where I might find Lessing Rosenwald’s contributions to the museum and she directed me to Room 75 upstairs.

It was only once I arrived at the “Lessing Rosenwald Room” that I realized his donated artworks were part of the wonderful temporary exhibition of works by Degas and Cassatt. Six pieces donated by Rosenwald have made their way into this show.

It’s great to know that Lessing Rosenwald’s contributions to the NGA remain vital and interesting to museum-goers and remain publicly available, as was his wish. Rosenwald also donated many materials to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., and they have a “Rosenwald Room” that is set up to resemble Lessing’s reading room at “Alverthorpe,” his home in suburban Philadelphia (which is now a park belonging to the borough of Jenkintown, PA).

The Degas/Cassatt exhibition is open at the NGA until October 5th, so take the time to visit before then.