Every month, Madison Reed spotlights phenomenal women who are making a positive impact on the world. Let’s celebrate their accomplishments and the possibility for all of us to make a difference! Meet Grace Lee Boggs, one of the most noted American activists of the 20th century.
Known as an American revolutionary and activist, Grace Lee Boggs was born to Chinese immigrants in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1915. She studied at Barnard College and later earned her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College, focusing much of her studies on the works of Hegel, Polanyi, and Marx, even translating three Marx essays from the original German to English. After struggling to find work on the East Coast, she moved to the Midwest and took a job at the University of Chicago’s philosophy library. Only making $10 per week, Grace had to find free housing, ultimately living in a rat-infested basement.
Her actions inspire us to create change when we see something in the world that can be better.
While walking through her Chicago neighborhood, Grace encountered a group that was protesting poor living conditions. She was aware of people suffering in cities, but in Chicago, Grace came into direct contact with it. She cited this experience as connecting her with the black community for the first time.
A few years later, she moved to Detroit where she helped edit Correspondence, an activist newspaper. She met James Boggs there, an African American auto worker and activist who would soon become her husband.
Together with her husband, Grace Lee Boggs became one of the most noted activists in Detroit. Labor and civil rights, feminism, Black Power, Asian American rights, and the state of the environment were all causes that Grace championed.
Grace was such a noted activist within Detroit’s Black Power movement that the FBI kept files on her and assumed she was partially African American based on her passion for the movement. She helped pave the way for ideal-based activism in the United States—one did not have to be part of a race or socioeconomic status to stand up against injustices and fight for change.
Grace wrote several books, consistently taking a revolutionary view on the United States, and continued her activism in Detroit throughout her life. Although her ideas centered around revolution, her philosophies were always guided by the human experience—focusing on how individuals had the ability to transform their own worlds, rather than overthrow an existing system.
Consistent, passionate, and strong, Grace Lee Boggs opened people’s minds about how to approach activism. She turned 100 years old in June 2015, and many people in the city of Detroit and beyond honored her life, and continue to celebrate her 100th birthday year.
On October 5, 2015, Grace Lee Boggs passed away. We commemorate her strength and legacy. Her actions inspire us to create change when we see something in the world that can be better.
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