Activist and civil rights pioneer Amelia Boynton Robinson is truly a living legend. In one of the most horrific examples of hatred in the Civil Rights Movement, Robinson was beaten and left for dead in the event known around the world as “Bloody Sunday.”
Robinson, a longtime champion of equal rights for women before she was involved in civil rights, was a key figure of the battles between Blacks and Whites in Selma, Ala.
After her husband and fellow voting rights activist S.W. “Bill” Boynton died in 1963, their home became the headquarters and meeting space for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and James Bevel.
The SCLC planned many of its non-violent demonstrations in Boynton’s home and office, solidified by a longtime friendship with the King family.
The events of “Bloody Sunday” unfolded on March 7, 1965, which was a peaceful march planned by Bevel and led by John Lewis, Hosea Williams and others.
The march was in protest of the inequality between Black and White registered voters. Although Selma was 50 percent Black, they made up a scant 1 percent of registered voters. The marchers were walking from Selma to the city of Montgomery which was where the state capital was located.
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a non-violent protestor for voting rights who was killed by a policeman in the week prior to the Selma march.
Jackson’s death, coupled with frustration about voting equality, galvanized more than 600 marchers that Sunday. Marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge when police headed off the marchers and unleashed a brutal assault.
A photo of Robinson, beaten and bloodied, shocked the globe and brought renewed attention to the voting rights of Blacks in America. Historians point to Bloody Sunday as the catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Robinson was a guest of honor when the bill was signed into law. Robinson ran for Congress in Alabama in 1964, the first African-American and woman to do so, but received only10 percent of the vote.
She went on to publish her autobiography, Bridge Across Jordan in 1979 and remains a voting and civil rights icon. Robinson will be 103 years old this August.