Amelia Boynton Robinson passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 104, and the nation is mourning one of the most storied individuals from the Civil Rights Movement. Boynton Robinson’s dedication to the voting rights and equality for southern Blacks and all African-Americans has been well-documented, and her iconic image from the “Bloody Sunday” event still moves the hearts of many.
Boynton Robinson was born in Savannah, Ga. on August 18, 1911. Boynton Robinson’s accounts of her early life are slightly conflicting but what is understood is that she attended her first two years of college at Georgia State College, which is now known as Savannah State University. She completed her studies at the Tuskegee Institute (now University) and earned a degree in Home Economics.
She continued her education at Tennessee State University, Virginia State University, and Temple University although what degrees or certificates she earned are largely unreported. After a stint as a teacher, Boynton Robinson worked in Dallas County as a home economics agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Selma, Ala.
She met her co-worker and first husband in 1930, Samuel Boynton. The pair married in 1936, and were well known for organizing voting registration drives, and bettering African-American lives for nearly three decades.
Mr. Boynton passed in 1963, during a time where the Civil Rights Movement began to simmer. Boynton Robinson made her home a headquarters for voting rights activists, carrying with her the spirit of her support for the women’s suffrage movement of the 1930’s as well.
Along with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) representatives Martin Luther King Jr. and James Bevel among several others, Boynton Robinson helped formulate plans for peaceful demonstrations regarding voting and civil rights in 1964 and 1965.
She was among the hundreds of marchers who took to Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 in the Selma To Montgomery march in Alabama. Better known as “Bloody Sunday,” the incident showcased a violent response from white police authorities and others who sought to halt the peaceful march.
In one of the most iconic photos of “Bloody Sunday” shows a badly beaten Boynton Robinson cradled by another marcher. The images, especially Boynton Robinson’s, spread globally, generation outrage. Eventually, due to their efforts, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed into law by then President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Boynton Robinson married twice more, to musician Bob Billups, who died in 1973 in a boating accident. She married former Tuskegee classmate James Robinson, who died in 1988.
In 1990, Boynton Robinson was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal. In 2014, five blocks of Lapsley Street in Selma were renamed Boyntons Street in honor of she and her first husband.
At the top of the year, Boynton Robinson was a honored guest of President Barack Obama at his State Of The Union address, and was by his side (pictured) during the 50th anniversary of the Selma To Montgomery protest this past March.