At a screening Monday of a documentary on Malcolm X to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death, the late actor Ossie Davis was eulogized as an inspiration for both the artistic and civil rights communities.
Director Spike Lee — who got Davis to recreate the eulogy he gave for Malcolm X in the documentary “By Any Means Necessary, the Making of Malcolm X” — said he was guided both creatively and politically by Davis and his wife, Ruby Dee, both of whom have appeared in his films.
“They gave me the courage to take stands that might be unpopular,” Lee said.
Several hundred people attended the screening at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, including Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, actors Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes, and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
For Sharpton, Davis was a giant in the black community.
“There have been bigger box office attractions, but there never was a giant taller than him,” Sharpton said.
Washington, who played the lead role in Lee’s 1992 “Malcolm X,” said Davis “is in good care and good company.”
“My prayers go out to Ruby,” he said.
The 87-year-old Davis was found dead Friday in his hotel room in Florida, where he was making a movie. His death appeared to be from natural causes, police said.
Dee was in New Zealand making a movie when her husband died. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998.