American Revolutionary

PBS Premiere: June 30, 2014Check the broadcast schedule »

About the Characters

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs

"Our challenge, as we enter the new millennium, is to deepen the commonalities and the bonds between these tens of millions, while at the same time continuing to address the issues within our local communities by two-sided struggles that not only say "No" to the existing power structure but also empower our constituencies to embrace the power within each of us to crease the world anew."

-- Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Grace Lee Boggs is an activist, speaker and writer with a thick FBI file and a firm conviction in the power of constant and incisive reflection and dialogue. Boggs was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1915, the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents. She grew up in New York City and earned her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. In 1953, she moved to Detroit, where she married James Boggs. Grace has authored six books, including her autobiography, Living for Change: An Autobiography, and, in 2011, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century. She has also earned a number of honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards and has a place in both the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame and the National Women's Hall of Fame. Boggs lives in Detroit and continues to be an indomitable and inspiring force as a writer, speaker and community activist.

James 'Jimmy' Boggs

James Boggs

"I never ceased to envy and marvel at the fluency with which Jimmy wrote and the speed with which his pen would travel from the left side of the page to the right... His passion for writing, I am convinced, played an important role in his development as a leader and a revolutionary theoretician."

-- Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change: An Autobiography

James "Jimmy" Boggs was born in Marion Junction, Alabama in 1919. Though he never lost his thick Alabama accent, James Boggs spent his adult life in Detroit, where he was an autoworker, activist, and author. James Boggs was an influential part of the far left and radical sides of the civil rights movement, and much of his impact was made through the power of his writing. James Boggs was best known for his book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker's Notebook, published in 1963. Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs lived together in Detroit until his death in 1993.

Together, Grace and James were part of nearly every major social movement in the United States, from Black Power and civil rights, to labor, feminism, environmentalism, the Asian-American movement and more. In 1992, Grace and James helped found Detroit Summer, a community-based multicultural youth program. In 2013, one of its participants, Julia Putnam, helped create a community-based charter school inspired by Grace and James's philosophy on education and named it the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. The Boggs Center, a center for leadership development in Detroit, was also founded and named in their honor.

Grace Lee

Grace Lee, Director/Producer

Grace Lee's most recent feature film, Janeane From Des Moines, set during the 2012 presidential campaign, premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Prior to that, Lee wrote and directed American Zombie, which premiered at Slamdance and SXSW before being released by Cinema Libre. She produced and directed The Grace Lee Project, a feature documentary that was broadcast on the Sundance Channel in 2005 and is distributed by Women Make Movies.

She is the recipient of the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media and a Rockefeller Media Arts grant, as well as funding from the Ford Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, Chicken & Egg Pictures and Film Independent. Lee received her master of fine arts degree in directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Based in Los Angeles, Lee, who is Korean American, is currently producing and directing an episode for the PBS MAKERS series on women and politics, as well as Off the Menu, a film about Asian American food culture, also for PBS.


American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs Press Kit.

Cargo Collective. "The James and Grace Lee Boggs School."

The James and Grace Lee Boggs School.