Amelia Boynton Robinson
|Amelia Boynton Robinson|
August 18, 1911
Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
|Occupation||American civil rights activist|
|Spouse(s)||Samuel W. Boynton (1936-1963; his death)
Bob Billups (1969-1973; his death)
James Robinson (19??-1988; his death)
Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson (born August 18, 1911) is an American woman who was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama and a key figure in the 1965 march that became known as Bloody Sunday. In 1984, she became founding vice-president of the Schiller Institute affiliated with Lyndon LaRouche. She was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal in 1990.
Civil rights movement
Amelia Platts was born in Savannah, Georgia on August 18, 1911 to George and Anna Platts, both of whom were of African-American, Cherokee, and German descent. Church was central to Amelia and her nine siblings' upbringing. She became involved as a girl in campaigning for women's suffrage. Her family was serious about education: she attended two years at Georgia State College (now Savannah State College, a historically black college) and after two years transferred and graduated from Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), earning a degree in home economics. (She later studied at Tennessee State, Virginia State, and Temple University.) She taught in Georgia before starting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Selma as the home demonstration agent for Dallas County. Robinson educated the county's rural population about food production, nutrition, healthcare, and other subjects related to agriculture and homemaking.
She met her future husband Samuel W. Boynton in Selma, where he was working as a county extension agent during the Great Depression. They married in 1936 and they had two sons, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver Boynton. Amelia and Samuel had known the noted scholar George Washington Carver at the Tuskegee Institute, which they both attended. In 1934 she registered to vote, which was extremely difficult for African Americans to accomplish in Alabama. A few years later she wrote a play, Through the Years, which told the story of creation of Spiritual music, in order to help fund a community center in Selma, Alabama. In 1954 the Boyntons met Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where King was the pastor.
In 1963, Samuel Boynton died. Amelia made her home and office in Selma a center for strategy sessions for Selma's civil rights battles; she worked with Martin Luther King, James Bevel, and others to plan demonstrations for civil and voting rights. While Selma had a population that was 50 percent black, only 1 percent of the town's African-American residents were registered as voters in 1965. That year in 1964 Boynton also ran for the Congress from Alabama, the first female African-American ever to do so and the first female of any race to run for the ticket of the Democratic Party in Alabama. Hoping to encourage African-American registration and voting, she received 10% of the vote.
To protest disenfranchisement of blacks and segregation, Amelia Boyton helped organize a march to the state capital of Montgomery, initiated by James Bevel, which took place on March 7, 1965. Led by John Lewis, Hosea Williams and Bob Mants, and including Rosa Parks and others among the marchers, the event became known as Bloody Sunday when county and state police stopped the march and beat demonstrators after they left the Edmund Pettus Bridge and crossed into the county. Boynton was beaten unconscious; a photograph of her lying on Edmund Pettus Bridge went around the world. Another short march led by Martin Luther King took place two days later; they turned back. With federal protection and thousands of marchers joining them, a third march reached Montgomery on March 24, entering with 25,000 people.
The events of Bloody Sunday galvanized public opinion and contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; Boynton was a guest of honor when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
In 1990 Boynton (by then remarried and known as Robinson) was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal. Her memoir, Bridge Across Jordan, includes tributes from friends and colleagues, including Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young. Mrs. King wrote:
In Bridge Across Jordan, Amelia Boynton Robinson has crafted an inspiring, eloquent memoir of her more than five decades on the front lines of the struggle for racial equality and social justice. This work is an important contribution to the history of the black freedom struggle, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who cares about human rights in America.
Boynton remarried in 1969, to a musician named Bob W. Billups. He died unexpectedly in a boating accident in 1973. Amelia Boynton eventually married a third time, to former Tuskegee classmate James Robinson. She moved with him to Tuskegee after the wedding. James Robinson died in 1988.
Amelia Robinson met Lyndon LaRouche in 1983, a highly controversial political figure; a year later she served as a founding board member of the LaRouche-affiliated Schiller Institute. (In 1988 LaRouche was convicted in US federal court of mail fraud involving $30 million in debt.)
In 1992, proclamations of "Amelia Boynton Robinson Day" in Seattle and in the state of Washington were rescinded when officials learned of Robinson's involvement in the Schiller Institute. It was the first time the state had pulled back such an honor. A spokesman for the Seattle mayor said,
"It was a very difficult decision. The mayor has a lot of respect for her courage during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but we don't feel her handlers gave us full and accurate information about her current activities. Officials said they had not been aware of the Schiller Institute's affiliation with LaRouche.
She commented in an interview, "I have had worse things than that done to me when I was fighting for people's right to vote. I have been called rabble-rouser, agitator. But because of my fighting, I was able to hand to the entire country the right for people to vote. To give me an honor and rescind it because I am fighting for justice and for a man who has an economic program that will help the poor and the oppressed ... if that is the reason, then I think they did more good than they did harm." According to the Lewiston Morning Tribune, she stated that "people get the wrong image of LaRouche because government leaders are spreading lies about him."
In 2004 Robinson sued The Walt Disney Company for defamation, asking for between $1 and $10 million in damages. She contended that the 1999 TV movie Selma, Lord, Selma, a docudrama based on a book written by two young participants in Bloody Sunday, falsely depicted her as a stereotypical "black Mammy," whose key role was to "make religious utterances and to participate in singing spirituals and protest songs." She lost the case.
During the fall of 2007, Robinson toured Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and Italy in her capacity as Vice President of the Schiller Institute. She spoke with European youth about her support for LaRouche (who had denied facts about the 9/11 attacks), Martin Luther King, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as the continuing problem of racism in the United States, which she said was illustrated by the recent events in Jena, Louisiana.
In 2014 the Selma City Council changed five blocks of Lapsley Street to Boyntons Street to honor Amelia Boynton Robinson and Sam Boynton.
Robinson is played by Lorraine Toussaint in the 2014 film Selma. Robinson, then 103 years old, was unable to travel to see the film. Paramount Pictures set up a private screening in her home to include her friends and family. A CNN reporter was present to discuss the film and her experiences at Selma, and she said she felt the film was fantastic.
In 2015 Robinson attended the State of the Union Address delivered by President Barack Obama.
- Boynton-Robinson, Amelia (1991). Marianna Wertz, ed. Bridge across Jordan. Schiller Institute. ISBN 978-0-9621095-4-6.
- John A. Kirk (2005). Martin Luther King Jr. Pearson Longman. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-582-41431-0. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Associated Press (February 8, 1992). "Gardner yanks honor for civil rights leader". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Profile: Amelia Boynton Robinson, Biography.com; accessed December 23, 2014.
- "Amelia Boynton Robinson", Encyclopedia of Alabama
- Wertz, Marianna. "Tribute to Amelia Boynton Robinson". Schiller Institute. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- Nikki L. M. Brown; Barry M. Stentiford (September 30, 2008). The Jim Crow Encyclopedia: Greenwood Milestones in African American History. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-313-34181-6. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Sheila Jackson Hardy; P. Stephen Hardy (August 11, 2008). Extraordinary People of the Civil Rights Movement. Paw Prints. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-4395-2357-5. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Boynton-Robinson, Amelia (1991). Marianna Wertz, ed. Bridge across Jordan. Schiller Institute. p. back cover. ISBN 978-0-9621095-4-6.
- "Disney Wins Defamation Case Filed by Civil Rights Activist". Lightfoot, Franklin, White, LLC. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- "Civil Rights Heroine Amelia Robinson Organizes European Youth for LaRouche December 2007". Schiller Institute. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- Gillesberg, Feride Istogu. "Amelia Robinson Takes Denmark by Storm". Executive Intelligence Review. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
- Skutch, Jan. "Civil rights legend Amelia Boynton Robinson to return to Savannah State University". Savannah Morning News. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- "Mrs. Amelia Platts Boynton Returns Home to Savannah". The Savannah Tribune. February 16, 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
- Column Alvin Benn (August 24, 2014). "Street named for rights legends Sam and Amelia Boynton".
- "Selma Civil Rights Matriarch", CNN
- Amelia Boynton Robinson's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- Amelia Boynton Robinson at the Encyclopedia of Alabama