Amelia Boynton Robinson, one of the chief architects of the historic Selma to Montgomery march and the push for voting rights in the South, passed away early Wednesday. She was 104.
Boynton Robinson spent her life advocating for Black Americans. In 1933, she co-founded the Dallas County Voters League and registered African-American voters for nearly two decades despite threats, attacks, and challenges at the polls that kept Black voters from exercising their rights.
In 1964, Boynton Robinson became the first Black woman (and first woman, period) in Alabama to run on the Democratic ticket for a seat in Congress. Though she did not win, she continued to engage with the political system for the remainder of her life.
Boynton Robinson’s activism was instrumental to the passage of Voting Rights Act of 1965. Along with inviting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma to coordinate with local groups, she worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and opened her home to help plan the Selma to Montgomery march. She also was not afraid to put her body on the line, and was nearly killed on “Bloody Sunday.”
“Having been a leader through the years, and having laid the foundation for the civil rights movement from 1930 until 1964, I felt as though all through that time it was my duty to lead,” Boynton Robinson told an interviewer for the documentary Eyes on the Prize. “I had no feeling of what was going to happen, but I knew one thing, that I was determined to go all the way.”
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, Boynton Robinson was present to see her lifelong dream realized.
“The truth of it is that was her entire life. That’s what she was completely taken with,” Bruce Boynton said of his mother’s commitment to the Civil Rights Movement. “She was a loving person, very supportive — but civil rights was her life.”
In 1990, Boynton Robinson received the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom, and this past January, she was President Obama’s special guest at the State of the Union Address. Last year, Boynton Robinson’s contributions to the movement were portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Selma.
Amelia Boynton Robinson was an American hero, and we are blessed she dedicated her life to bettering our nation.