CORVALLIS, Ore. – Grace Lee Boggs, a 92-year old activist who has been a national figure in the civil rights, black power, labor, environmental justice and feminist movements, will deliver the annual Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture for World Peace at Oregon State University, Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m.
Her lecture, titled “A New Concept of Citizenship,” is at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center. It is free and open to the public. Boggs, a resident of Detroit for more than 54 years, is the co-founder of the Detroit Summer Youth Program. She works with the Beloved Communities Initiative. Her autobiography, “Living for Change,” was published in 1998.
Boggs was raised in New York City during a time when her father was not allowed to buy land for their home because he was Chinese. Educated at Barnard and Bryn Mawr, Boggs was in her 20s when radical politics beckoned, and she was inspired to become a revolutionary focusing on the black community.
During her early years as an activist in New York, Boggs began a 20-year friendship and collaboration with C. L. R. James, the influential West Indian Marxist. In 1953, she moved to Detroit where she met her future husband, James Boggs, an African American auto worker and later author and revolutionary theoretician.
Beginning with their work together on the newsletter “Correspondence,” Grace and James formed the core of a network that over the years would include Malcolm X, Lyman Paine, Ping Ferry, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Kwame Nkrumah, Stokely Carmichael and inner-city youth.
Together, they wrote important books on activism such as “Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century” (1974), “Women and the Movement to Build a New America” (1977), and “Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation’s Future” (1978).
Richard Clinton, an emeritus professor in the OSU Department of Political Science and a member of the Pauling Peace Lecture Committee, said Boggs declines most invitations to speak that involve traveling, but made an exception to come to OSU because of her friendship with the late Pauling, an OSU alumnus.
“In her interview on ‘Bill Moyers Journal’ last month, she was a paragon of acuity, wisdom, tranquility and kindness,” Clinton said. “As a tireless champion of equal rights for women, racial minorities, and workers, she has repeatedly demonstrated the depth of her commitment to justice, nonviolence, and human rights.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pauling’s first public appeal for a ban on nuclear weapon testing. Pauling revolutionized the way chemistry was taught in university classrooms when he published his 1947 college textbook, “General Chemistry.” It soon became the standard introductory chemistry text used in universities all over the world, and it secured his place as a major scientific figure of the 20th century. Ten years later, Pauling with the encouragement of his wife Ava Helen started channeling his efforts into a role as an activist. He rallied the support of his colleagues and became one of the most outspoken opponents of nuclear weapons testing.