As a teenager in Harlem, studied at the America Negro Theater; classmates included Sidney Poitier, with whom she later appeared in both the 1959 Broadway production and 1961 film version of A Raisin in the Sun.
Made her Broadway debut in a 1943 non-musical version of South Pacific.
Met husband Ossie Davis while performing in the Broadway drama Jeb in 1946. It was the first of some 50 performances together.
Earned recognition in the 1950 biopic The Jackie Robinson Story, as Robinson's wife, Rachel; Jackie Robinson played himself.
Was a regular on the CBS soap opera The Guiding Light in 1967.
With Davis, wrote a memoir, In This Life Together; has also published volumes of poetry as well as several film and stage scripts.
With Davis, was inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame (1989); was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts from the National Endowment of the Arts (1995); and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors (2004).
Was honored at a celeb-filled bash in Harlem for her 90th birthday in October 2012 that included an excerpt from a documentary about her life with Ossie Davis produced by grandson Muta'Ali Muhammad.
1979, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Special: Nominee
1991, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special: Winner
1964, Emmy — Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Nominee
1988, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special: Nominee
1993, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Nominee
1990, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Nominee
2006, Grammy — Best Spoken Word Album: Winner
2009, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Nominee
2007, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Nominee
2007, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Winner
2007, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Nominee
2000, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Life Achievement Award: Winner
Ossie Davis — Husband (deceased)
Nora Day — Daughter
Emma Benson Wallace — Stepmother
Frank Dee Brown — Ex-husband
Guy Davis — Son
Edward Nathaniel Wallace — Father
Hasna Muhammad — Daughter
Gladys Hightower — Mother
City University of New York, Hunter College, New York, New York, United States (BA, 1945)