Onyx Magazine – Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson

Matriarch of the Voting Rights Movement Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson, escorted by Ms. Lateefah Muhammad, receives special recognition at the 11th Annual ONYX Awards.

Born August 18, 1911, Amelia is a native of Savannah, Georgia. She is the second oldest living alumnae of Tuskegee University, Alabama, having graduated in 1927 under the leadership of Tuskegee’s second president, Dr. Robert Russa Moton. Mrs. Boynton Robinson’s involvement in the civil and voting rights struggle began in 1921 as she rode in a horse and buggy with her mother, Mrs. Anna Hicks Platts, to teach “colored” folks how to register and vote. After graduating from then-Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Amelia taught school in Georgia. She married the love of her life, Mr. S.W. “Bill” Boynton, after they began working with the United States Department of Agriculture in Dallas County, Alabama. They had one son, Bruce Carver Boynton, an attorney who resides in Selma. Mrs. Boynton Robinson has been a registered voter in Alabama since 1932. She and her husband worked tirelessly to help raise Black people above the level of second-class citizenship.

Discriminated against by Whites and ostracized by Blacks who were afraid to associate with them, the Boynton’s found the struggle for freedom and survival an uphill battle. On March 7, 1965, after the death of her husband in 1963, Amelia was beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, knocked unconscious and left to die until Sheriff Jim Clark sent a hearse that took her to a hospital where she received treatment and regained consciousness. She and others were attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery to bring attention to problems of segregation in the South.

After Bill’s death, Amelia continued the fight for voting rights and other privileges for the downtrodden. Portions of what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were written at her kitchen table in Selma. The national school lunch program started after a 1967 visit by then-Assistant to the USDA Secretary, William M. Seabron, upon Amelia’s request. Hundreds of acres of land purchased between 1940’s and 1960’s to help poor Blacks end sharecropping for others and to begin producing crops for themselves were used under the model established by the Boynton’s in Dallas County. A bust of Mr. Boynton proudly stands in the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama, honoring his commitment to helping the underprivileged and disenfranchised.

A monument now stands at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, commemorating and memorializing Amelia’s bravery and hard work in Dallas County, Alabama. An author and historian, Mrs. Boynton Robinson has given presentations to young people and others all over the world. Her book, Bridge Across Jordan, has been published in five languages.

On December 18, 2014, through the organized efforts of close friends and family, Amelia hosted a private screening of the movie, “Selma.” The film was presented at her residence in Tuskegee, Alabama by Paramount Pictures’ executive producer, Paul Garnes. In the film, some of Mrs. Boynton’s role in the civil and voting rights movement is portrayed, including a reenactment of “Bloody Sunday.” The movie was released nationwide on January 9, 2015.

Mrs. Boynton Robinson, 103, known as the “Matriarch of the Voting Rights Movement” and the oldest living icon of the Movement, has been nominated by the National Nominating Committee, launched in Tuskegee, for the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be bestowed by President Barack Obama. We are honored that Onyx Magazine is endorsing and supporting such a Distinguished American Living Legend as Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson for this prestigious award, especially since not many of the women of her time in the civil and voting rights movement have been so honored.