Joanne Grant Rabinowitz

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Joanne Grant Rabinowitz, (1930 — 2005) "who died at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York Sunday night, was called a soldier in the fight against racism and oppression when she was chosen as one of 16 activists of the civil rights era who were honored by Community Works New York City, a nonprofit organization that mounted an exhibit called "The Long Road to Freedom" in 2003. A writer, journalist, and filmmaker, Ms. Rabinowitz had been a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar-in-residence at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. She began her career in 1959 as assistant to W.E.B. DuBois, a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"Her death was unexpected. However, her family said she had been in deteriorating health for the last few years and was recuperating from a broken hip. She was 74.

"Ms. Rabinowitz is perhaps best known for her 1968 book Black Protest: History, Documents, and Analysis. It became a standard text and was updated in 1974. Her next book, Confrontation on Campus: The Columbia Pattern for the New Protest, was published in 1969.

"She was also the author of a biography, Ella Baker: Freedom Bound for which Julian Bond, a friend, wrote the introduction. It was praised by such well-known figures as Marian Wright Edelman and Pete Seeger. Her documentary film, "Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker," which preceded the biography, was shown nationally on PBS and was chosen as an outstanding film of the year at the London International Film Festival. It also won a first place from the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, among other honors. Ms. Grant had joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the early 1960s and become a close associate of Ms. Baker, who is considered by many to have been an unsung civil rights hero.

"From 1960-65, Ms. Rabinowitz was a reporter for the National Guardian and a fund-raiser for the movement, including the Mississippi Summer project. She also worked as the news director of WBAI-FM for a year and developed a syndicate to distribute articles nationally for The Nation.

"Along with 160 other Americans, Ms. Rabinowitz went to Moscow for the 1957 Festival of Youth and Students, and then joined 41 others to defy a State Department ban on travel to Communist China. The group said they were taking the trip in the spirit of adventure and defended their right to travel. The New York Times reported that "a thousand flower-bearing Russians waved as the Moscow-to-Peiping [now Beijing] express rolled from the Yaroslav station." She made several more trips to China in the following years.

"An inveterate traveler, her circle of friends included writers, academics, filmmakers, musicians, attorneys, and others in many parts of the world, from London to Prague and from Cuba and to California. She was a frequent lecturer and panelist on college campuses in this country and abroad and served on the committee for the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism.

"One friend said she was a vibrant member of any dinner party whose passion for social justice could turn polite talk into heated discourse. Another commented that Ms. Rabinowitz never knew of a party that she did not want to attend.

"She and her husband, the civil rights attorney Victor Rabinowitz, spent their first summer in East Hampton in 1964 and bought a house in the Settlers Landing area in 1968. Mr. Rabinowitz and the couple's son, Mark, who has been living in Los Angeles, survive, as does a daughter, Abby, who lives in New Jersey. The East Hampton house was sold a few years ago when the couple decided to live year round in their Greenwich Village apartment.

"Although the family came to the South Fork to relax, Ms. Rabinowitz continued her activism here, working with others to stage benefits for civil rights and peace activists and for political candidates who shared her perspective. Over the years, she contributed to The Star, including a number of "Guestwords" columns. They varied in topic from extraditing a squirrel from her house to the silence that followed the death of a friend: "Perhaps we should not mourn so privately, not hide our tears, our sorrow, our pain. Those who are left have only each other." [1]

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  1. Joanne Grant Rabinowitz, accessed January 8, 2009.