The Matriarch of the Voting Rights Movement: Amelia Boynton Robinson

Amelia Robinson was born in 1911 in Georgia, in a family of 10 children. Her father was a building contractor. She traces her history on both sides back to a mixture of African slaves, Cherokee Indians, and German and other European nobility.

The account of the life of this remarkable woman is given in the“Bridge Across Jordan,” published by the Schiller Institute in July1991. “Bridge Across Jordan” is the account of Mrs. Robinson’s life-long struggle for civil rights and human rights for citizens of all colors.

Amelia Boynton Robinson is perhaps best known as the woman at the front of the march who was gassed, beaten, and left for dead on Edmund Pettus Bridge, during the “Bloody Sunday” march on March 7, 1965 to Montgomery, Alabama, which quickly led to the mushrooming of the civil rights movement into an international mass movement.

But Amelia Robinson’s efforts for justice and civil rights began long before 1965. From the1930s, she and her husband, S.W. Boynton, fought for voting rights and property ownership for African-Americans in the poorest rural areas of Alabama, where she worked as Home Demonstration Agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he as County Agent. Bill Boynton gave his life for this cause, dying young of a heart attack induced by the years of hard labor and harassment his work brought on.

During the 1960s, Mrs. Robinson’s home and office became the center of Selma’s civil rights battles, used by Dr. King and his lieutenants, by Congressmen and attorneys from around the nation, to plan the demonstrations that would lead eventually to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1964, she was the first female African-American ever to seek a seat in Congress from Alabama, and the first woman, white or black, to run on the Democratic ticket in the state.