Grace Lewis was born in Tennessee in 1948 but grew up in Louisville. She became one of the first blacks to attend a white school in Jefferson County when she enrolled in Ahrens High School, a trade school, to study business education. She graduated in 1966 but could not find a job in Louisville.
In 1969, she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for the Department of the Navy as a clerk-stenographer, then moved to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
While in Washington, Lewis also became involved in the campaign to free radical activist Angela Davis as well as other social-justice causes. Since returning to Louisville in 1987, she has continued to be involved in civil rights and other issues. She is active in the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, in the Kentucky Rainbow Coalition, and in women's health concerns.