Voting Rights Activist Amelia Boynton Robinson Dies At 104

August 27, 2015  |  

Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was often called the matriarch of the voting rights movement, passed away yesterday at 104-years-old.

Though Boynton Robinson was most known for the iconic picture of her beaten, gassed and unconscious on the ground during the historic march, later known as Bloody Sunday, she was instrumental in the fight for equal voting rights for African Americans. In fact, she was one of the organizers of that particular march, the first of three that would occur on the 54 mile journey from Selma to Montgomery to register to vote.

It was Boynton Robinson who helped persuade Dr. King to focus his efforts in that city.

The day of the first march, protestors were attacked by the Alabama state troopers. The images of that day, specifically those of Boynton Robinson were shown internationally and helped garner a lot of support for the movement.

She sustained serious injuries and after her release from the hospital, was invited by President Lyndon B. Johnson to attend the signing of the Voting Rights Act into law at the White House.

President Obama released a statement after learning of her death:

“She was as strong, as hopeful and as indomitable of spirit — as quintessentially American — as I’m sure she was that day 50 years ago. To honor the legacy of an American hero like Amelia Boynton requires only that we follow her example — that all of us fight to protect everyone’s right to vote.”

Boynton Robinson attended the 50th anniversary commemorative march with President and Mrs. Obama earlier this year and was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Selma by Lorraine Toussaint.

Born in 1911, Boynton Robinson had worked as an advocate for equality for much of her life. As a young girl, before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, she traveled with her mother by horse and buggy to pass out pamphlets advocating for women’s suffrage.

At 14, she enrolled in what is now known as Savannah State University and later transferred to Tuskegee Institute where she studied under George Washington Carver. She graduated with a degree in home economics.

She worked for the Department of Agriculture, giving instruction on food, nutrition and homemaking in rural households in Dallas County, Alabama.

After she married, she and her husband spent decades registering Black voters in the state.

After her husband died in 1963, Boynton Robinson ran for Congress for the state of Alabama. She was the first Black person since Reconstruction and the first Black woman to ever do so. She received 10 percent of the vote.

Boynton Robinson met Dr. King is 1954 and became involved in his work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She allowed King to utilize her house as a meeting ground for the civil rights leaders in the area. They planned the Selma to Montgomery marches there and an early draft of the Voting Rights Act was written in her home.

Boynton Robinson lived in Tuskegee, Alabama at the time of her death and had outlived many of her loved ones. Her second husband, Bob W. Billups died in 1973, her third husband James Robinson in 1988. She lost a son Bill Boynton Jr. last year.

Survivors include her son Bruce Carver Boynton and her granddaughter.

According to a piece in The Los Angeles Times, Boynton Robinson was surrounded by friends and relatives before she passed on Wednesday, around 2:20 a.m.

In a 1992 interview with the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Boynton Robinson was quoted as saying,

“I have been called a rabble-rouser, agitator. But because of my fighting I was able to hand to the entire country the right for people to vote.”

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