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Photo: Robin Holland

Grace Lee Boggs

Activist

Grace Lee Boggs has been a part of almost every major movement in the United States in the last 75 years, including: Labor, Civil Rights, Black Power, Women’s Rights and Environmental Justice.

Born in 1915 to Chinese immigrant parents, Boggs received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. In the 1950′s she worked with West Indian Marxist C.L.R. James before marrying African American activist and autoworker James Boggs (1919-1993) and moving to Detroit in 1953.

Inspired early on by African-American labor leader A. Philip Randolph, who in 1941 fought successfully for equal hiring practices in defense plants as the United States geared up for WWII, Boggs remembers, “When I saw what a movement could do, I said, ‘Boy that’s what I wanna do with my life’.”

When race violence gripped Detroit in 1967, Boggs began to look toward the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a template for revolution. Since then, she has dedicated her life to helping to realize King’s vision of Beloved Community in her hometown and elsewhere around the country.

In 2004, she helped organize the Beloved Communities Project, “an initiative begun to identify, explore and form a network of communities committed to and practicing the profound pursuit of justice, radical inclusivity, democratic governance, health and wholeness, and social/individual transformation.”

Boggs is still exceptionally active as a community organizer and weekly columnist for the Michigan Citizen. Her many honors include lifetime achievement awards from the Organization of Chinese Americans, Anti-Defamation League (Michigan) and the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. She also has a place in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Her latest book, written with Scott Kurashige, is The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.