Thursday, January 20, 2005

Joanne Grant, 74, Dies

Over the years I have learned that social change instigated by the famous is implemented by the hard-working. Last week saw the passing of a woman who dedicated her life to making the world a better place and documenting that change.

From the New York Times:

Joanne Grant, 74, Dies
Documented Grassroots Efforts on Civil Rights
Published: January 15, 2005

Joanne Grant, an activist who documented the grassroots efforts behind the civil rights movement through her journalism, filmmaking and commentary, died on Sunday at St. Vincent's Midtown Hospital. She was 74 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was heart failure, her son, Mark Rabinowitz, said.

Ms. Grant wrote "Black Protest" (Fawcett, 1968), a documentary analysis of black resistance from 1619 on. One of the first books to trace the origins of the civil rights movement, it remains required reading in many classes on African-American history.

A former assistant to W. E. B. DuBois, Ms. Grant sought to profile the struggle for civil rights through its community leaders. Her award-winning documentary film "Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker" (1981), about an unsung matriarch of the civil rights movement, was broadcast nationally on PBS. She later wrote "Ella Baker: Freedom Bound" (Wiley, 1998), a biography. In "Confrontation on Campus" (New American Library, 1969), she described sit-ins at Columbia University and elsewhere.

"She was an important voice in the early writing on the civil rights movement," said Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a professor of African-American studies at Harvard. "Scholars began to realize that you couldn't understand how this became a national phenomenon unless you understood how communities rallied around issues."

Friends described Ms. Grant as the movement's publicist and said she saw herself as both journalist and advocate. She was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960's and in later years organized benefits for social causes and political candidates.

In the 1960's, as a reporter for The National Guardian, she often traveled to rural Southern towns to describe demonstrations and organizations that other publications largely ignored.

"She exposed and explained the civil rights movement in ways that the daily press either couldn't or wouldn't," said Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Joanne Grant Rabinowitz, whose father was white and mother biracial, was born in Utica, N.Y., on March 30, 1930. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in history and journalism.

In addition to her son, Mark, of Manhattan, she is survived by her husband, Victor Rabinowitz, a lawyer and activist; a daughter, Abby, of Hamburg, N.J.; a stepson, Peter, of Clinton, N.Y.; a stepdaughter, Joni, of Pittsburgh; a half-sister, Mary Jane Hubbard of Norwich, N.Y.; a half-brother, James Hubbard of Orlando, Fla.; and two step-grandchildren.

Ms. Grant leaves a legacy of writing and film that deserves to be remembered.

Her most recent book Ella Baker: Freedom Bound is currently available.

Her 1968 book, "Black Protest History, Documents and Analyses, 1619 to the Present" was called by the New York Times "by far the fullest documentary history of three and one-half centuries of Negro-American protest and agitation . . ." and can be found at new and used book stores.

"Confrontation on Campus" about the Columbia University student riots in 1968 can be found at used shops.

She also wrote, directed and produced the 1981 documentary Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker.

An obit of Joanne at

Evergreen Review article

Thanks to Mark for keeping me informed.

Dick Mac Recommends:
Ella Baker: Freedom Bound
by Joanne Grant

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