NJSEA Celebrates Black History Month: Ruby Dee, Kearny


Photo credit: AT&T Archives.

Today is the final installment of our weekly posts honoring Black History Month. The posts are taken from our archives and were originally done by former staffer Jim Wright.

Today we honor Ruby Dee, an actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and activist, who worked in Kearny during World War II. She died in 2014.

    Actress and civil rights champion Ruby Dee, who was born in Cleveland in 1924 and raised in Harlem, worked at the Western Electric Company’s Kearny Works during World War II, soldering wires on an assembly line.

   She graduated from Hunter College and got her first Broadway role in a play called “Jeb,” about a black GI war hero. The star was Ossie Davis, whom she married two years later.

   Both Davis and Dee were active in the Civil Rights Movement throughout their careers. Dee has been involved with the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

   Dee starred in “American Gangster,” set in part in Bergen County, in 2007.

   For more information on Ruby Dee, click here.

   For more information on Kearny’s Western Electric plant, click “Continue reading…” 

    Western Electric was one of the nation’s largest distributors of electrical products in the first half of the 20th Century, with plants in Chicago, Baltimore and Kearny.  

    During World War II, when Ruby Dee worked at the Kearny Works, “most of Western Electric’s products for the Bell System during this period were radio and wire communications equipment for war use at Army and Navy bases and defense contractors across America,” according to a company history.

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