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Grace Lee Boggs

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Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs
Boggs at her home in Detroit in 2012
Born Grace Chin Lee [1][2]
(1915-06-27) June 27, 1915
Providence, Rhode Island
Residence Detroit, Michigan
Alma mater Barnard College (B.A., 1935)
Bryn Mawr College (Ph.D., 1940)
Occupation Writer, social activist, philosopher, and feminist
Spouse(s) James Boggs (1953-1993, his death) [1]
Parents Chin Lee (father; b.1870; d.1965)
Yin Lan Lee (mother; b.1890; d.1978) [3][4]
Relatives Katherine (sister)
Edward (brother; b.1920)
Philip (brother)
Robert (brother)
Harry (brother; b.1918) [4]

Grace Lee Boggs (born June 27, 1915) is an author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist. She is known for her years of political collaboration with C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya in the 1940s and 1950s.[5] She eventually went off in her own political direction in the 1960s with her husband of some forty years, James Boggs, until his death in 1993.[6] By 1998, she had written four books, including an autobiography. In 2011, still active at the age of 95, she wrote a fifth book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, co-written by Scott Kurashige and published by the University of California Press.

Her life is the subject of the documentary film American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs released in 2013, produced and directed by the American filmmaker Grace Lee.[7]

Early life and education

Grace Lee was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Chin Lee, a restaurant owner originally from Toishan in China born in 1870.[4] Her mother, Yin Lan Lee, her father's second wife, acted as an early feminist role model. She grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. Her father owned restaurants in New York City.[4]

Boggs went on to study at [2]


Facing significant barriers in the academic world as a woman of color in the 1940s, she took a job at low wages at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. As a result of their activism on tenants' rights, she joined the far left Workers Party (US), known for its Third Camp position regarding the Soviet Union which it saw as bureaucratic collectivist. At this point, she began the trajectory that would follow her for the rest of her life: a focus on struggles in the African-American community.[8]

She met C.L.R. James during a speaking engagement in Chicago and moved to New York. She met many important activists and cultural figures such as Richard Wright and Katharine Dunham. She also translated into English many of the essays in Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 for the first time. She soon joined the Johnson-Forest tendency led by C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya and Lee. They focused more centrally on marginalized groups such as women, people of color and youth as well as breaking with the notion of the vanguard party. While originally operating as a tendency of the Workers Party (US), they briefly rejoined the Socialist Workers Party (United States) before leaving the Trotskyist left entirely. The Johnson-Forest tendency also characterized the USSR as State Capitalist. She wrote for the Johnson-Forest tendency under the party pseudonym Ria Stone. She married African American auto worker and political activist James Boggs in 1953 with whom she politically collaborated for decades and moved to Detroit in the same year. Detroit would be the focus of her activism for the rest of her life.

When C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya split in the mid-1950s into Correspondence Publishing Committee led by James and News and Letters led by Dunayevskaya, Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs supported Correspondence Publishing Committee which C.L.R. James tried to advise while in exile in Britain.

In 1962, the Boggses broke with C.L.R. James and continued Correspondence Publishing Committee along with Facing Reality. The ideas that formed the basis for the 1962 split can be seen as reflected in James Boggs' book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Black Worker's Notebook. Grace Lee Boggs unsuccessfully attempted to convince Malcolm X to run for the United States Senate in 1964. In these years, Boggs wrote a number of books, including Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century with James Boggs and focused on community activism in Detroit where she became a very widely known activist.

She founded Detroit Summer, a multicultural intergenerational youth program, in 1992 and has also been the recipient of numerous awards. As recently as 2005, she continued to write a column for the Michigan Citizen newspaper.


  • George Herbert Mead: Philosopher of the Social Individual (New York : King's Crown Press, 1945)
  • Facing Reality (with C.L.R. James and Cornelius Castoriadis). (Detroit: Correspondence, 1958).
  • Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. (with James Boggs). (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974).
  • Women and the Movement to Build a New America (Detroit: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1977).
  • Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation's Future (with James Boggs, Freddy Paine and Lyman Paine). (Boston: South End Press, 1978).
  • Living for Change: An Autobiography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998).
  • The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century (with Scott Kurashige). (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011).


  1. ^ a b Ward, Stephen M. (editor), Pages from a Black Radical's Notebook: A James Boggs Reader, Wayne State University Press, 2011
  2. ^ a b Cf. Library of Congress catalog entry for , New York, King's crown press, 1945George Herbert MeadLee, Grace Chin. .
  3. ^ Cooper, Desiree, "Activist Boggs learned from mom's regrets", Detroit Free Press, March 9, 2006
  4. ^ a b c d Cf. Boggs, Grace Lee, Living for Change: An Autobiography (1998)
  5. ^ Aguirre Jr., Adalberto; Lio, Shoon (2008). "Spaces of Mobilization: The Asian American/Pacific Islander Struggle for Social Justice". Social Justice. Asian American & Pacific Islander Population Struggles for Social Justice 35 (2): 5. 
  6. ^ "Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes: An Oral History of Detroit's African American Community 1918-1967", Wayne State University Press, p. 156, Elaine Latzman Moon. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  7. ^ American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,
  8. ^ Gay, ed., Kathlyn (2013). American Dissidents: An Encyclopedia of Activists, Subversives, and Prisoners of Conscience, Volume 1.. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 71–73.  

Further reading

  • "PBS Profile: Detroit 'Revolutionary' Grace Lee Boggs, 98", Deadline Detroit media, June 30th, 2014.


  • Democracy Now!Grace Lee Boggs interviewed on , January 20, 2008
  • Grace Lee Boggs interviewed by Bill Moyers, June 15, 2007
  • Boggs on the Financial Meltdown and Social Change - video report by Democracy Now!
  • "The Only Way to Survive is By Taking Care of One Another" - video report by Democracy Now!

External links

  • The Boggs Center Home Page
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