Happy 100th birthday, Ossie Davis

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 1:  Actor Ossie Davis attends a reading of the U.S. Constitution at Cooper Union for the People For the American Way Foundation September 1, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 1: Actor Ossie Davis attends a reading of the U.S. Constitution at Cooper Union for the People For the American Way Foundation September 1, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

Credit: Peter Kramer

Credit: Peter Kramer

Legendary actor, playwright and civil rights activist Ossie Davis would have turned 100 today.

“It’s a big wow for us,” said daughter Nora Davis Day . “He really wasn’t much for celebrating his personal birthday. He used to say, ‘Look, I was born, I couldn’t help it. Let’s not make a big deal.’ As he got older and had grandchildren we would always celebrate using his birthday as a platform to get people together to discuss issues like freedom...and what we can do now.”

He, who was born in Cogdell, Ga.,  died in 2005 at age 87 in Miami where he was filming a movie.

Day said there will be several events happening over the next few months to further celebrate his birth. The family, for instance, is in talks with the National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C. to donate some of his personal items.

Hollywood legends Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are the subjects of a new documentary, “Life Essentials with Ruby Dee,” directed by their grandson Muta’Ali Muhammad. The film, which will be screened at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, shows his grandparents’ journey as trailblazers in the arts community and activists in the Civil Rights Movement. The film shares exclusive video footage, family photos and memorabilia. “Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee” is a highly anticipated film at the 5th Annual BronzeLens Film Festival. CONTRIBUTED BY Dee-Davis Archives
Hollywood legends Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are the subjects of a new documentary, “Life Essentials with Ruby Dee,” directed by their grandson Muta’Ali Muhammad. The film, which will be screened at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, shows his grandparents’ journey as trailblazers in the arts community and activists in the Civil Rights Movement. The film shares exclusive video footage, family photos and memorabilia. “Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee” is a highly anticipated film at the 5th Annual BronzeLens Film Festival. CONTRIBUTED BY Dee-Davis Archives

On the stage, he  starred in “Purlie Victorious,” “Jamaica” and “I’m Not Rappaport.”

His film and TV work included  Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,”  as well as “The Client” and "Roots: The Next Generation.”

Davis was also part of an actor powerhouse duo that included his wife, iconic actor, Ruby Dee.

OSSIE DAVIS and Spike Lee are shown around the neighborhood.
OSSIE DAVIS and Spike Lee are shown around the neighborhood.

Credit: David Lee/Universal City Studios

Credit: David Lee/Universal City Studios

As much as he was known for his acting ability, Davis was also a major figure in the civil rights movement. He spoke at the 1963 March on Washington and delivered the eulogies  for slain leader Malcolm X.

The Davises marched alongside some of the veteran civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Children of Ruby and Ossie Davis are (l to r) Nora Davis Day, Guy Davis and Dr. Hasna Muhammad.
Children of Ruby and Ossie Davis are (l to r) Nora Davis Day, Guy Davis and Dr. Hasna Muhammad.

Credit: Jihaad Muhammad

Credit: Jihaad Muhammad

Another daughter, Hasna Muhammad, said their father “would want us to celebraate in a way that benefited other people and draw attention to the issues today. I think he would have been happy to make it to 100. He would be grateful then turn inward to family and prayer.”

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American actor and Civil Rights activist Ossie Davis (1917 - 2005) speaks before a crowd during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington DC, August 28, 1963. The march and rally provided the setting for the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr's iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech. The 'UAW' seen on several hats refers to the United Auto Workers union. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
American actor and Civil Rights activist Ossie Davis (1917 - 2005) speaks before a crowd during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington DC, August 28, 1963. The march and rally provided the setting for the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr's iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech. The 'UAW' seen on several hats refers to the United Auto Workers union. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Credit: PhotoQuest

Credit: PhotoQuest

Today, his birthday, is just one point on a line, Muhammad said.

She asks people to send up prayers and positive energy.

“We want to use the occasion of their lives and legacy to bring them into the public discourse around issues that are very important still through this day. There are still issues of civil and human rights that are plaguing this country right now. We believe if they were around now they would be very vocal and very active in the resistance and try to effect change on issues like police violence,  mass incarceration, the death penalty and voting. They would have something to say.”