Amelia Boynton Robinson: Her Soul’s Marching On


This past Wednesday Amelia Boynton Robinson passed away at the age of 104 It is with much emotion that I and many others who were part of the fight for civil rights in the 1960s mourn a woman who was a major figure in the fight against Jim Crow, segregation, and racism.

In 1965 she was part of the what was Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. A close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, she had convinced him to start the march to Montgomery to demand the right to vote in Selma. During the first march she and others were gassed, beaten, and threatened with death. She was knocked unconscious and left to die.

r-AMELIABOYNTON-403xFBcreditAs she lay unconscious a trooper looked over at her with a nightstick in hand ready to cause more damage if she moved while another civil rights activist held her and comforted her. She survived and continued the fight for civil rights and justice until her death.

On August 6, 1965 she was a guest of honor when President Johnson signed the federal Voting Rights Act into law. This past March the march at Selma was reenacted with President Barack Obama leading the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. President Obama was flanked by Ms. Robinson and by Congressman John Lewis, who was also part of the 1965 march.

Upon learning of her passing President Obama said, “Amelia Boynton Robinson was a dedicated and courageous leader in the fight for civil rights. For most of her 104 years, Amelia committed herself to a simple, American principle: that everybody deserves the right to vote. Fifty years ago, she marched in Selma, and the quiet heroism of those marchers helped pave the way for the landmark Voting Rights Act. But for the rest of her life, she kept marching – to make sure the law was upheld, and barriers to the polls torn down. And America is so fortunate she did. To honor the legacy of an American hero like Amelia Boynton requires only that we follow her example – that all of us fight to protect everyone’s right to vote. Earlier this year, in Selma, Michelle and I had the honor to walk with Amelia and other foot soldiers of the Selma2Civil Rights Movement. She was as strong, as hopeful, and as indomitable of spirit – as quintessentially American – as I’m sure she was that day 50 years ago. And we offer our thoughts, our prayers, and our enduring gratitude to everyone who loved her.”

From childhood she was an exposed to the civil rights scene by passing out leaflets with her mother advocating for women’s suffrage. Always an activist, she was a candidate for Congress from Alabama in 1964. She garnered 10% of the vote which was remarkable considering the small numbers of black who were registered at that time.

In December of 2014 she said, “I wasn’t looking for notoriety. But, if that’s what it took I didn’t care how many licks I got. It just made me even more determined to fight for our cause.”

So just as John Brown’s soul and his activism for abolition of slavery continues to march on so does the soul, activism, and determination of Amelia Boynton Robinson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email