Remembering Civil Rights Matriarch Amelia Boynton Robinson

09.01.2015

Washington, DC – NOW leaders and activists around the country mourn the loss of civil rights pioneer Amelia Boynton Robinson.

It’s important that young people know about the struggles we faced to get to the point we are today. Only then will they appreciate the hard-won freedom of blacks in this country. – Amelia Boynton Robinson, The New York Post

In the 1930’s, Boynton Robinson began her activist career by registering African Americans to vote. In 1964, she ran for Congress to represent Alabama. She was the first woman to have run for this Democratic seat, and although she did not win, she received 10% of votes. As the civil rights movement picked up, Boynton asked Martin Luther King Jr., who had witnessed her arrest in January 1965 for seeking to register Black voters, to visit Selma and empower the community. King accepted, and joined Boynton Robinson and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in planning the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 17th, 1965.

As approximately 600 marchers walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were confronted by 200 state troopers and Alabama policemen, who shot teargas and beat the non-violent protesters. This horrific event came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

At least 17 protesters were sent to the hospital, including Boynton Robinson. A picture of her unconscious body lying on the ground after an officer shot tear gas into her throat spread through every news media outlet across the globe, and quickly became a symbol for race relations in the United States at the time. Boynton remembers the march and says,

There was a line of state troopers, like tin soldiers, with billy clubs, wearing gas masks…they charged. They came from the right. They came from the left. One [of the troopers] shouted: ‘Run!’ I thought, ‘Why should I be running?’

The Selma to Montgomery march was a pivotal demonstration in the civil rights movement, leading to future victories such as the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Amelia Boynton Robinson was an incredible activist, leader, and woman, and is remembered for her courage and strength throughout the civil rights movement.

Contact

Elise Coletta , elise@now.org , (951) 547-1241
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