American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
Film Review by Kam Williams
Born on June 27, 1915, Grace Lee was raised in New York by modest immigrant parents from a humble Chinese background. Her mother couldn’t read or write English, although her business-minded father did save up enough cash by 1924 to open up his own restaurant, Chin Lee’s, on Broadway.
Meanwhile, Grace was a precocious wunderkind who entered Barnard College at just 16. And after graduating, she went on to earn a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr in philosophy.
However, when she subsequently attempted to pursue a professional career, prejudice reared its ugly head, as she found her horizons severely limited by the fact that she was Asian and female. She ended up moving to Chicago where she could barely make ends meet, eking out a living on $10/ week as a librarian. As for housing, the best she could afford was a rat-infested basement apartment in the ‘hood.
That experience help served to radicalize Grace who developed a lifelong empathy for the downtrodden. In the Midwest, she also met and married Jimmy Boggs an African-American activist from the South who shared her progressive political agenda.
The couple settled in Detroit where, as local civil rights leaders, they lobbied on behalf of the poor. In addition, they brought such black icons to speak there as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Even after Jimmy passed away, Grace has, for decades, remained resolutely committed to both The Movement and her adopted hometown.
All of the above is lovingly chronicled in American Revolutionary, a reverential biopic directed by Grace Lee (no relation). Though now nearly 99, the incendiary centenarian remains as fiery as ever and has made precious few concessions to age.
The picture includes glowing tributes from fellow firebrands like Angela Davis and Bill Ayers. But what most makes the movie worthwhile is merely watching Grace wax romantic about the good ole days while walking around the ruins of a devastated Motor City.
A cinematic primer on how to make a mark on the world.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 82 minutes
Distributor: First Pond Entertainment
To see a trailer for American Revolutionary, visit
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