WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 5, 2015) — Grace Lee Boggs, a Detroit based civil rights activist and author who has been a leader in many of the social movements that have shaped the United State over the past 70 years has died at age 100.
The White House Office of the Press Secretary released a statement from President Barack Obama, who said that he and First Lady Michelle Obama were saddened to hear of the passing of Boggs, saying she dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others – from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the civil rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives.
“As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that. 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. “Grace’s passion for helping others, and her work to rejuvenate communities that had fallen on hard times spanned her remarkable 100 years of life, and will continue to inspire generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with Grace’s family and friends, and all those who loved her dearly.”
According to her biography, Lee Boggs was the daughter of Chinese immigrants, who went on to earn a degree from Barnard College in 1935, and a doctorate in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1940. 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.
Grace Lee Boggs’s books include Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century; Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation’s Future; Living for Change: An Autobiography; and The Next American Revolution. She continued speaking and was active as a community activist into her late 90s. In 2013, the James and Grace Lee Boggs School opened near her Detroit home.
U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), chair of the Congressional Pacific American Caucus, said Lee Boggs was a true trailblazer for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community – an incredible woman who championed a more just, equal, and sustainable world. 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.
“Her activism, courage, and dedication to empowering local communities taught us the importance of building strong coalitions to enact social change,” Chu said. “While her passing leaves us with a great void, I know that her legacy will continue to live on in the many accomplishments she leaves behind and in the generations she will continue to inspire.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus, said Lee Boggs will be remembered as a true advocate for civil rights and a champion for those who are less fortunate.
“I am saddened by the news of Grace’s passing, but I cannot help but focus on the courage of a woman who spent her 100 years fighting for true equality, having spent over 50 years organizing with the black community in Detroit,” Honda said. “She stood up for workers’ rights; against racial discrimination; for equal pay for women; for fair and safe housing for the poor. It is my hope that Grace’s legacy will continue to inspire younger generations. She helped change the narrative nationwide on what it means to be Asian American and I know that she will continue to be honored for the great contributions she made to our society. When we talk about how racial diversity and immigration form the fabric of the United States, Grace Lee Boggs is the kind of person we are thinking of.”