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Famed Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs Passes Away at 100

She was renowned for her work in the black power movement.

Photo by Flickr user Kyle McDonald.

This week, many are celebrating the life of Grace Lee Boggs, a beloved Chinese-American community organizer who is recognized for her legendary work in the civil rights and black power movement. She passed away in her Detroit home on Monday at 100 years of age.


“Grace died as she lived surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” her trustees wrote in a statement to the community.

Boggs was renowned in her local Detroit community as a tireless champion for community and for her grassroots work in all justice-related issues. In 1992, she co-founded Detroit Summer, non-profit “multi-racial, inter-generational collective” which seeks to empower youth through music, art, and urban farming, She also opened her own home to local organizers, providing them with a space to commune and strategize. It would later become the location of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, where she gave counsel and guidance to young activists. Her one-on-one interactions with community members, which she continued to the end of her life, were documented in the Peabody Award-winning film, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.

“One of the difficulties when you're coming out of oppression is that you get a concept of the messiah,” Boggs said in an interview with Democracy Now! “You have to get to that point that we are the leaders we've been looking for. We are the children of Martin and Malcolm. I don't know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but we might be able to imagine it, if your imagination were rich enough.”

Her thoughtful and incisive writings touched on everything from women’s liberation to environmental justice, but it was her work in the black power movement that would define the spirit of her activism. She met and married her husband James Boggs in the 50s, and the two of them teamed up to enlist in the black power movement. They worked with Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X, helping organize marches around the country. James Boggs died in 1993. They had no children, but they both leave behind a legacy of passtionate activism and a zealous committment to social justice.

“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,” said President Obama in a statement.