Labor, civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs dies at age 100

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Posted: Oct 05, 2015 10:59 PM
Labor, civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs dies at age 100

DETROIT (AP) — Grace Lee Boggs, a longtime activist who was part of the labor, civil rights, black power, women's rights and environmental justice movements, died Monday at her Detroit home. She was 100.

Boggs and late husband James Boggs were involved in advocacy for decades. She helped organize a 1963 march in Detroit by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the November 1963 Grassroots Leadership Conference in Detroit with Malcom X.

Her death was announced by the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, which she set up after her husband's 1993 death.

"Grace died as she lived surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas," Alice Jennings and Shea Howell, two of her trustees, said in a statement issued by the center.

In a statement released by the White House, President Barack Obama said Boggs learned early that "the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that."

"Grace 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," the president said.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Boggs was born in Rhode Island in 1915 and grew up in New York City. After receiving a doctorate in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1940, Boggs worked at the University of Chicago's Philosophy Library.

Boggs moved back to New York to work with socialist theorist C.L.R. James, helping create an offshoot of the Socialist Workers Party that focused on race and poverty.

She moved to Detroit in the 1950s to write for a socialist newspaper. That's where she met James Boggs, an African-American man who would become her husband and collaborator. In the 1960s, the couple became involved in the black power movement and were known to offer Malcolm X a place to stay when he visited Detroit.

Their later work focused on Detroit's residents and neighborhoods and included starting Detroit Summer, a program for young people to work on community projects.

Boggs was the subject of a 2013 documentary, "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs," that aired on PBS.