Davis performed in numerous plays on Broadway, including "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Purlie Victorious," which he wrote. He landed his feature-film debut in 1950's No Way Out and continued to act in theatre and film, often in stories depicting the black experience in the United States.
Along with Dee, Davis was a longtime political activist and was highly visible during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Notable films include Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X and Miss Evers' Boys. Davis received lifetime achievement awards from the Screen Actors Guild and the Kennedy Center Honors before his death on Feb. 4, 2005.