Joanne Grant, the daughter of a mixed-race mother and a white father, was born in Utica on 30th March 1930. She studied journalism at Syracuse University but, unable to find a job in her chosen field, initially worked in public relations.
Grant held left-wing political views and in 1957 travelled to the Soviet Union. Later she went to China defying a Cold War ban on travel to that country. She also became research assistant to William Du Bois, the co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
Grant became active in the Civil Rights movement and took part in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) campaigns in the 1960s. It was during this period she met the lawyer Victor Rabinowitz. The couple were married in 1965.
In 1960s Grant worked for the left-wing New York weekly, National Guardian. This included reporting on the Jim Crow Laws, Freedom Riders, Freedom Schools, Freedom Summer, Selma March and the March on Washington. As John J. Simon has pointed out: "She was not just at mass demonstrations, she was there in isolated communities where black students, conducting voter registration drives, were often rewarded with bloody beatings. Grant visited small towns in rural Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia in the early 1960s, at a time when assaults, killings and lynchings were common. As a black reporter this took courage, but Grant faced those dangers, filed her dispatches, got herself arrested, and became a member of the most militant of the civil rights groups, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)."
Joanne Grant is the author of Black Protest: History, Documents, And Analysis 1619 To The Present (1968) and Confrontation On Campus (1969). An expert on Ella J. Baker, Grant made the successful documentary, Fundi: The Story Of Ella Baker in 1981. This was followed by a biography, Ella Baker: Freedom Bound (1998).
Joanne Grant died on 9th January, 2005.