Amelia Boynton born


Amelia Boynton
Date: 
Fri, 1911-08-18

*Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson was born on this date in 1911. She was an African American activist in the 20th century American Civil Rights Movement and a key figure in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march.

From Savannah, GA Amelia Platts was the daughter of George and Anna Platts, both of whom were of African-American, Cherokee, and German descent. Church was central to her and her nine siblings' upbringing. She became involved as a girl in campaigning for women's suffrage. Her family encouraged the children to read. Platts attended Georgia State College now Savannah State University. She transferred to Tuskegee Institute now Tuskegee University, earning a degree in home economics. She later also studied at Tennessee State, Virginia State, and Temple University. Platts taught in Georgia before starting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Selma as the home demonstration agent for Dallas County. There she educated the county's largely rural population about food production and processing, nutrition, healthcare, and other subjects related to agriculture and homemaking.

She met her first husband Samuel W. Boynton in Selma, where he was working as a county extension agent during the Great Depression. They married in 1936 and had two sons, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver Boynton. In 1934 Amelia Boynton registered to vote, which was extremely difficult for blacks in Alabama, due to discriminatory practices under the state's disenfranchising constitution passed at the turn of the century. IA 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 Her and her husband met Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. In 1963, her husband died. In 1964 Boynton ran for the Congress from Alabama, hoping to encourage black registration and voting. She was the first black woman to run for office in Alabama and the first woman of any race to run for the ticket of the Democratic Party in the state. She received 10% of the vote.

In 1964 and 1965 Boynton worked with Martin Luther King, James Bevel, and others of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to plan demonstrations for civil and voting rights. In 1965, while Selma had a population that was 50 percent black, only 300 of the town's black residents were registered as voters, after many had been arrested in protests. By March 1966, after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 11,000 were registered to vote. To protest continuing segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks, on March 7, 1965 Amelia Boynton helped organize a march to the state capital of Montgomery, which became known as Bloody Sunday. 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 episodes of Bloody Sunday and the later marches on Montgomery galvanized national public opinion and contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; Boynton was a guest of honor at the ceremony when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in August of that year. Boynton remarried in 1969, to Bob W. Billups who died unexpectedly in a boating accident in 1973. She 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. In 1984, she served as a founding board member of the Lyndon LaRouche affiliated Schiller Institute. LaRouche was later convicted in 1988 of mail fraud involving $30 million in debt. 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. Robinson retired as vice president of the Schiller Institute in 2009.

In 2011, Robinson returned to her hometown of Savannah, to address students at Savannah State University. In 2015, Robinson attended the State of the Union Address in January at the invitation of President Barack Obama, and, in her wheelchair, was at Obama's side as he and others walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Selma Voting Rights Movement 50th Anniversary Jubilee that March. After suffering a series of strokes, Robinson died on August 26, 2015, at the age of 104 in Montgomery, Alabama.

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Person / name: 

Rbinson, Amelia Boynton