Historic home of James and Grace Lee Boggs to be transformed into museum in Detroit

Jun 29, 2021 at 3:05 pm
click to enlarge James and Grace Lee Boggs' home on Detroit's east side will be transformed into a museum devoted to the couple's activism. - LeeLee Films
LeeLee Films
James and Grace Lee Boggs' home on Detroit's east side will be transformed into a museum devoted to the couple's activism.

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Foundation plans to transform the activist couple's historic home into a museum on Detroit’s east side.

The Boggs House museum will feature permanent and rotating exhibitions that highlight the couple’s role in advocating for civil rights, labor, the environment, and other causes, and their influence on younger generations of activists, artists, educators, policymakers, and humanitarians.

To begin the planning and design process, the foundation has launched a campaign to raise $100,000 on the crowdfunding site Givebutter.com.

“We know this announcement will generate a sense of excitement for the growing number of people who understand that Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs’s transformative visions and strategies are indispensable to solving the social crises of the present and future,” Scott Kurashige, president of the foundation, said in a statement Tuesday.

The goal is to open the museum in 2023 or 2024. Until then, the foundation will host educational programs and public events.

The 2.5-story, brick, two-flat house is at 3061 Field St. The city of Detroit designated the house as a historic district in 2012.

James and Grace Lee Boggs moved into the house in 1962, just as the Civil Rights Movement was heating up.

click to enlarge James and Grace Lee Boggs - James and Grace Lee Boggs Foundation
James and Grace Lee Boggs Foundation
James and Grace Lee Boggs

“The museum will provide visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the home as lived in by the Boggses, as well as browse their extensive library archiving their vibrant intellectual and political lives,” the foundation said in a news release.

On the floor above the planned museum is the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, a nonprofit focused on grassroots leadership and activism among younger generations. It’s there where educators and activists held information discussions about creating a new model of education that empowered young people and was a catalyst for community improvements.

Two blocks away is the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, a K-8 charter school focused on nurturing creative, critical thinkers who are active in their communities.

“Now future generations will be able to find there historic books, art, files, photos, speeches, papers and memorabilia — all testaments of the revolutionary struggles in which Jimmy and Grace played momentous roles, not only in Detroit, but nationally and abroad,” Gloria House, a poet, scholar and longtime friend of the Boggs, said in a statement. “As a powerful repository of revolutionary culture and legacies, this museum will inspire others towards the politics of community development and self-determination to which Jimmy and Grace devoted their lives.”

State Sen. Stephanie Chang, who was a mentee of Grace Lee Boggs, used to live at the house.

“James and Grace Lee Boggs left an impact on so many Detroiters and people across the globe,” Chang said. “The Boggs Center has been a convening spot for many people to learn from Grace and Jimmy for decades. It is important that we preserve the Boggs house as a museum, so that all who visit can continue to learn from their activism, writing, and organizing.”

Robin D.G. Kelley, a professor at UCLA and author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, said the Boggs’ home played a significant role in Detroit's activist communities.

“For over four decades, for anyone seeking to radically change this country, all roads led to Detroit — specifically to 3061 Field Street,” Kelley said. “The home of Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs was the gathering point for everyone—from community organizers and internationally renowned intellectuals to neighborhood kids — thinking about and making a new revolution. Their home is an authentic landmark, both as a repository of 20th century history and an inspiration to those who continue to do the work."

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