Amelia Boynton Robinson, Leader in the Voting Rights Movement

Today’s Tribute was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

“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

On August 26, 2015, Amelia Boynton Robinson passed at 104 years young. She was a Civil Rights activist, educator, political leader, and catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Robinson received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Freedom and served as the Vice Chair for the Schiller Institute. In January 2015, Robinson attended the State of the Union Address as an invited guest of the President, and in March, she crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge along side President Barack Obama on the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Photograph of John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Amelia Boynton Praying before Bloody Sunday (NAID 16898979)

Photograph of John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Amelia Boynton Praying before Bloody Sunday (NAID 16898979)

Amelia (Platts) Boynton was born on August 18, 1911, in Savannah, Georgia. She earned a degree from Tuskegee Institute [University] in home economics and further pursed her education at Tennessee State University, Virginia State University, and Temple University. Boynton married in 1936, and along side her first husband, worked on black voter registration in Alabama. Boynton continued working for civil rights during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1964, she was the first African-American woman to run for Congress from the state of Alabama.

Photograph of Amelia Boyton, Beaten on Bloody Sunday (NAID 16899082)

Photograph of Amelia Boyton, Beaten on Bloody Sunday (NAID 16899082)

While living in Selma, Alabama, Boynton attempted to vote numerous times, and was rejected each time. She worked with the Dallas County Voters League, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to gain voter rights for southern African Americans. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Boynton along with about 500 other people held a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama demanding voting rights. The marchers were met at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by the police and local southern whites. They were violently attacked and Boynton was beaten unconscious. The images of her lifeless body, forced many Americans to acknowledge the need for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For additional information about Amelia Boynton Robinson at the National Archives, please check out the following:

  • FBI Case File #44-28492: Bloody Sunday,” blog posted on February 24, 2015
  • Testimony from Hosea Williams, John Lewis, and Amelia Boynton et al. v. Honorable George C. Wallace, Governor of Alabama et al. (NAID 279204) from the series Civil Cases, 9/1938-11/26/1968 (NAID 279193)
  • Amelia P. Boynton v. James Clark, Sheriff of Dallas County, et al. (NAID 2618721) from the series Criminal Case Files, 1887-1981 (NAID 656880)
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