Grace Lee Boggs

Does one only change the society or is change needed on the individual plan also? Let us explore a woman that kept both these aspects in mind when fighting for a better tomorrow for most or all of the endangered parts of society and the environment.

Grace Lee Boggs, a fighter for civil and labor rights, is best known as a figure in Detroit's Black Power movement. She gave herself in the fight so much that people assumed she was part black. She is an American author, social activist, philosopher and feminist. She is also known for political collaboration with C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya in the 1940s and 1950s but in the 1960s she and her husband James Boggs took their own political direction.

She was born on June 27, 1915 in Providence, Rhode Island above her father’s restaurant. Her Chinese name was Yu Ping which means “Jade Peace”.

She studied at Barnard college, University of Columbia where she was on a scholarship. In those years she was very much influenced by philosophers Kant and Hegel. She graduated in 1935 and received her PhD from Bryn Mawr College in 1940.

Her activism began in the 1940s when she faced barriers in the academic world. There were no jobs and she barely found a low paying job in the Philosophy library of the University of Chicago. Her stipend was so low she was forced to live in a rat filled basement. Eventually, she saw a group of people protesting against poor living conditions which included rat infected housing. This connected her to the black community for the very first time. She said that she was aware that she was suffering, but perceived it as a statistical thing, and through contact with people it became a human thing. In 1953 she married her husband (auto worker and activist) James Boggs.

Image credits: - Clay Banks

When a few years had passed, she went with her husband to Detroit to help edit a radical newsletter Correspondence. There they continued to focus on Civil Rights and Black Power movement activism. In 1970 Boggs helped the Detroit Asian Political Alliance to be founded.

Together, she and her husband became the city's most noted activists which fought for labor and civil rights, feminism, Black Power, Asian Americans and the environment.

Boggs didn’t form her philosophies only around a revolution but also on the individual level, because she believed in the idea that the individual can transform his or her own world.

Her husband died in 1993 when Grace was 78, but after that happened Grace became even more involved in activism in Detroit. She had to figure out what she was going to do on her own, so there was a need of recreating herself in order to discover who she was.

In 2005 she started to write a weekly column for the Michigan Citizen, a Detroit area newspaper and she continued till she was 98.

Grace Lee Boggs died on October 5, 2015 at 100 years old. After she died president Barack Obama issued a statement in which he praised her work in Detroit and her leadership in the civil rights movement, as well as her ideas.

She is a living example of a deep thinker that managed to explore ideas and put them to use in the processes of society. Ideas and insight are worthless if they don’t have their reflection in real life and that is what we should all acknowledge.

Written by: Mislav Zlomislić


Mislav Zlomislić is a digital marketing intern of PS Media Enterprise. He is a former student of Zagreb school of economics and management, Zagreb, Croatia


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