Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia. He graduated from high school in Waycross, Georgia, then attended Howard University. He began his career as a writer and an actor with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem in 1939.

In 1946, Mr. Davis made his Broadway debut in Jeb and went on to perform in many Broadway productions, including Anna Lucasta, The Wisteria Trees, Green Pastures, Jamaica, Ballad for Bimshire, The Zulu and the Zayda, and the stage version of I'm Not Rappaport. In 1961, Mr. Davis wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed Purlie Victorious. He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.

After making his film debut in No Way Out (1950, with Sidney Poitier), Mr. Davis appeared in such films as The Cardinal, The Hill, and The Scalphunters. In 1970, Mr. Davis directed his first feature film, Cotton Comes to Harlem. He went on to direct four others: Gordon's War, Kongi's Harvest, Black Girl, and Countdown at Kusini, which he also co-produced with his wife, Ruby Dee.

Mr. Davis' first appearance on the small screen was in the title role of the 1965 television production of The Emperor Jones. He received Emmy Award nominations for his work in Teacher, Teacher; King, and most recently Miss Evers' Boys. He has been a regular or recurring player in the series With Ossie & Ruby, B. L. Stryker, Evening Shade, and The Client. Additional notable television credits include Night Gallery, The Sheriff, The Ernest Green Story, Roots: The Next Generation, Alex Haley's Queen, The Stand, The Defenders, and Bonanza. Currently, Mr. Davis co-hosts the African Heritage Movie Network's Movie of the Month. His television writing credits include episodes of East Side/West Side and the teleplay of For Us the Living, for which he received the Neil Simon Jury Award.

He has also appeared in the films Miss Evers' Boys, Dr. Dolittle with Eddie Murphy; Get on the Bus for Spike Lee; I'm Not Rappaport with Walter Matthau; 12 Angry Men for Showtime Network; and on the CBS television series Promised Land and Touched by an Angel.

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee have produced several television specials, including Today Is Ours, Martin Luther King: The Dream & The Drum, and two segments of A Walk Through the 20th Century with Bill Moyers. They also co-produced the television series With Ossie & Ruby, which aired for three seasons. In 1980, Mr. Davis and Ms. Dee founded their own production company, Emmalyn II Productions Company, Inc.

Mr. Davis has received many honors and citations, including the N.Y. Urban League Frederick Douglass Award, the NAACP Image Award, the National Medal of Arts, and most recently to both him and Ruby Dee, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award

He is the author of three children's books: Escape to Freedom (honored by the American Library Association and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award); Langston; and Just Like Martin. He and Ruby Dee recently marked their 50th wedding anniversary with the publication of their joint autobiography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together. Davis is currently in the process of writing a play.