Grace Lee Boggs, founding member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, has died at the age of 100 in Detroit. She married James Boggs (1919-93), a black autoworker, and the two became leaders in the black power movement and other civil rights activism in Detroit.
And in an essay written in 2010 explaining why she did not partake in a commemoration of the August 28, 1963, March on Washington, one of the biggest rallies for civil rights in the history of the USA, Boggs questioned the value of “encouraging democratic illusions” while there was still such pervasive injustice and inequity in the U.S.
She also co-founded Detroit Summer, “a multi-racial, inter-generational collective” that has served as a training ground for activists, attracting young people from around the country since 1994. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she graduated from Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, where she received a Ph.D.in philosophy. “She understood the power of community organizing at its core – the importance of bringing about change and getting people involved to shape their own destiny”, Obama said.
Boggs authored or co-authored several books on political subjects, including “Facing Reality”, “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century”, and “Living for Change: An Autobiography”.
Just, as he says, Grace. She liked to tell people that “the reward for hard work is more work”. Born to Chinese immigrants in Rhode Island during a time when families of color faced discrimination and struggled with basic access to opportunities, Grace refused to remain silent in the face of injustice, she said. A charter school in her name opened a few years ago.
She moved to Detroit in the 1950s to write for a socialist newspaper. With her husband, James Boggs, she gave Malcolm X a place to stay in Detroit. “She has touched thousands and thousands of people from all generations”, Howell said. “Brilliant. She was in touch with what’s happening in the world and in society until pretty much the very day that she left us”. And they feel at this time particularly it’s important to live a meaningful life.
Boggs was an unrelenting critic of the cultural and economic conditions that contributed to Detroit’s decline with a keen focus on the struggles of the city’s economic underclass. Alone in her big house, she lay in bed, waiting for the noises or her life – she didn’t know which – to end.