Boynton Robinson was born on August 18, 1911 in Savannah, Georgia where she grew up and lived, working as an educator until the 1930s. She then moved to Selma in Alabama where she worked for the US Department of Agriculture as a home demonstration agent. She met her husband, Samuel W. Boynton, who she married in 1936, and both began fighting for voting rights in the poor areas still operating under Jim Crow laws.
In 1934, Boynton Robinson registered to vote, which was extremely difficult for African-Americans in Alabama back then. After her husband died in 1963, she ran for congress in 1964 – the first black woman to ever do so in the entire nation, and the first woman on a democratic ticket in the state. During this time she started working with Martin Luther King to expand their protest against the disenfranchisement and discrimination of African Americans.
A year later, on the 7th of March 1965 to be exact, she would call for the infamous march across Edmund Pettus Bridge that would later be dubbed “Bloody Sunday” due to the county and state police waiting for the marchers and beating them once they had crossed the bridge. A photograph of Boynton Robinson’s unconscious body swept the nation and, coupled with two other marches across the bridge, paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When Lyndon Johnson signed the act Boynton Robinson was a special guest. In 1990 she was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal. In 2014, five blocks in Selma were renamed “Bonytons Street” in honor of her and her first husband. In 2015 she was invited to the State of the Union Address by President Obama and crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge hand in hand with him for the 50th Jubilee of the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
Boynton Robinson also wrote a memoir called “Bridge Across Jordan” and was played in 2014 motion picture “Selma” by Loraine Toussaint, a film which the civil rights matriarch said felt the film was fantastic.
R.I.P. Amelia Boynton Robinson, you will be missed fondly!
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