3 ways to introduce teenagers to activist Grace Lee Boggs #GraceLeeTaughtMe

Grace Lee Boggs, a longtime civil and labor rights activist, died last week at age 100. I knew Grace’s name before but I didn’t know anything about her life or work, so I’ve been reading about her in the last few days.

I haven’t found any children’s books about her! That’s a hole that needs to be filled. But many of the resources geared toward adults could also be read/viewed by young adults, so here’s a list of three ways to introduce teenagers to Grace Lee Boggs.

1. Online articles

Between Boggs’ 100th birthday in June and her death last week, there’s been no shortage of reflections/summaries on the activist’s life and legacy.

Some basic details from Bogg’s bio: she was born in in Rhode island to Chinese immigrants. She got a Ph.D in philosophy but had trouble finding any kind of job because of racial discrimination. Her activism began in Chicago, where she protested the rat-infested housing in which she and others lived. In the 1940s she moved to Detroit, where she met and married auto worker and activist James Boggs. The couple became prominent in the Black Power movement and other social struggles. Bogg’s community-focused work continued throughout her life, including the founding of a youth program in Detroit in the 1990s. In a 2012 interview with Hyphen magazine, Boggs shared this advice for young activists:

“Do visionary organizing. Turn your back on protest organizing and recognize how that leads you more and more to defensive operations, whereas visionary organizing gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it’s very fulfilling.”

2. Video

“American Revolutionary,” a documentary about Boggs, premiered on PBS’ “POV” series in 2014. It’s also available to watch for free from now until Nov. 3.

There’s also this 25-minute interview Bill Moyers did with Boggs in 2007.

3. Social media

After getting some background on Boggs, a great way to engage teenagers further would be to check out the tweets shared in the last week with the hashtag #GraceLeeTaughtMe, or the Smithsonian’s tumblr page full of 100 awesome Boggs quotes. These tiny lessons offer great conversation starters for young people to consider their own values.

Bonus: Young people interested in a deeper dive could try Boggs’ autobiography, “Living for Change,” or her most recent book, “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.”


Have you talked with any of the kids you know about Grace Lee Boggs? Tell me about it in the comments. Also, if you know of books or other materials about here that are specifically for children, please share the titles!

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