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
Born in Savannah, Georgia on August 18, 1911 to George and Anna Platts, both of her parents were of African-American, Cherokee Indian and German descent. Church was central to Amelia and her nine siblings' upbringing. Robinson became involved as a girl in campaigning for women's suffrage. She and her husband, Samuel W. Boynton wed in 1936 and had two sons, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver. Amelia and Samuel had known George Washington Carver at the Tuskegee Institute. In 1934 she registered to vote, a privilege which later became a right. 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. The Boyntons met Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in 1954 at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where King was the pastor.
In 1963, Samuel Boynton died. Amelia's home and office in Selma became the center of Selma's civil rights battles and was used by 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.
To protest this state of affairs, Robinson helped organize a march to 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 local and state police stopped the march and beat demonstrators as they were crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge. Robinson herself was beaten unconscious; a picture of her lying on Edmund Pettus Bridge went around the world. Another short march led by Martin Luther King took place two days later, and a third march reached Montgomery on March 24.
Bloody Sunday contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; Robinson was a guest of honor when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Robinson ran for the Congress from Alabama in 1964, 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. She received 10% of the vote.
Robinson was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal in 1990. 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, and moved back to Tuskegee after the wedding. Robinson died in 1988.
Robinson met Lyndon LaRouche in 1983 and a year later served as a founding board member of the LaRouche-affiliated Schiller Institute. In 1992, proclamations of "Amelia Boynton Robinson Day" in Seattle and in the state of Washington were rescinded when officials learnt of Robinson's involvement in the Schiller Institute, the first time such an action had been taken. 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, and spoke with European youth about her support for LaRouche, 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, so Paramount Pictures set up a private screening in her home including 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, biography.com; accessed December 23, 2014.
- 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".
- Amelia Boynton Robinson's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- Amelia Boynton Robinson at the Encyclopedia of Alabama