American civil rights activist Grace Boggs dies in Detroit at 100

DETROIT (Reuters) - Grace Lee Boggs, an author and activist in the feminist, labor, civil rights and environmental justice movements, died in Detroit on Monday at the age of 100, according to her Facebook page.

“Grace died as she lived surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” Alice Jennings and Shea Howell, two trustees for her estate, said in a message on the page.

Boggs died peacefully in her sleep at her home on the city’s east side, they said, without giving the cause of death.

Born Grace Lee to Chinese immigrant parents, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1935 and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1940, according to a biography on her Web page.

She became politically active in the 1930s, working with philosopher C.L.R. James. In 1953, she married Detroit civil rights activist and auto worker James Boggs.

Grace Lee Boggs helped organize the 1963 march in Detroit with Martin Luther King Jr. In her later years, she co-founded the Detroit Summer youth program to help rebuild collapsed neighborhoods. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

“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,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said: “Grace Lee Boggs was a force for promoting social change, and we were lucky she chose to call Detroit her home. Through her activism, she fought for civil rights, social justice and income equality. She made Detroit - and the world - a better place.”

Boggs authored or co-authored several books on political subjects, including “Facing Reality,” “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century,” and “Living for Change: An Autobiography.” Her most recent book, “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century,” was published in 2012.

She was featured in a 2013 PBS documentary, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” in which she said reality is always changing, and people need to change their ideas along with it.

“Don’t get stuck in old ideas,” Boggs said.

Richard Feldman, board member with the Boggs Center in Detroit, said Boggs, who was born in Providence, Rhode Island, had no children but left behind nieces and nephews.

“She was always asking the question, ‘What does it mean to be human?” Feldman said.

Reporting by Aaron Foley in Detroit and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Diane Craft and Eric Beech