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Grace Lee Boggs (born June 27, 1915) is an author, lifelong anti-racist activist and feminist. She is known for her years of political collaboration with C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya in the 1940s and 1950s. 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.
Born Grace Lee in Providence, Rhode Island, she was the Chinese-American daughter of a restaurant owner. Her mother acted as an early feminist role model. She studied at Barnard College on a scholarship and graduated in 1935 where she was influenced by Kant and especially Hegel. She received her PhD from Bryn Mawr College in 1940 where she wrote her dissertation on George Herbert Mead. 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.
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 Lyman Paine and Freddy Paine, while C.L.R. James' supporters, such as Martin Glaberman, continued on as a new if short-lived organization, 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 later years, the Boggses' politics became much more eclectic and third worldist, praising Castro and Mao. 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.
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