Primary Source Analysis

In this activity you’ll hear directly from a Detroit activist and think critically about her remarks.

Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015) was an activist, writer, speaker, and community leader in Detroit.  She and her husband, James Boggs (an autoworker), were leaders within the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements as well as activists for workers’ rights.  Grace went on to also participate in activism on behalf of women’s rights as well as food and environmental justice.  Her leadership connected her with other leaders over time–from elected officials such as Mayor Coleman A. Young to community organizers like Malcolm X.  Through her work in the Black Power movement she came to appreciate the need for youth education that was rooted in a purpose for education that led students toward social change and community building.  And as industrialism changed, she found herself connecting more with the need for communities to be able to grow their own food and sustain their own nutrition.  Both of these principles led to the creation of Detroit Summer, a multigenerational gardening program, and transformed her home into the headquarters for Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership–a space for study, community organizing, and local project development.

Watch the clip of Grace Lee Boggs discussing the interaction between her community leadership and Mayor Coleman A. Young’s governmental leadership. Write a short essay about what you’ve seen. What did their leadership priorities have in common? Who were each of them trying to represent and serve?