Selma civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson dies aged 104

Life-long campaigner played seminal role in struggle

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 28 August 2015 09:29
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The state troopers who attacked and beat Amelia Boynton Robinson did so with such vigour that she was knocked unconscious.

The image of her lying on the floor of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” made headlines around the world.

The scenes of people being clubbed and tear-gassed in Alabama helped propel the march into becoming a focus for the civil rights struggle, and people never forgot the role Ms Robinson played. For the veteran campaigner, the struggle was “entire life”.

Amelia Boynton Robinson was knocked unconscious

This week, the family of Ms Boynton Robinson revealed she had died at the age of 104. She had been hospitalised in Montgomery in July after having a major stroke, the Associated Press said.

“The truth of it is that was her entire life. That’s what she was completely taken with,” her son, Bruce Boynton, said of his mother’s role. “She was a loving person, very supportive – but civil rights was her life.”

Fifty years after the historic march, Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, joined her in a trip across the span during a commemoration.

In January, Ms Boynton Robinson attended the State of the Union address as a special guest of Democratic Alabama representative Terri Sewell, who said Ms Boynton’s 1964 run for Congress paved the way for her.

Amelia Boynton Robinson and President Obama on the 50th anniversary of the march

Ms Sewell is Alabama’s first elected black congresswoman. Ms Boynton Robinson was the first woman to run on a Democratic ticket in Alabama and the first black woman to run for Congress in the state, according to the AP.

“Mrs Boynton Robinson suffered grave injustices on the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma at the hands of state troopers on Bloody Sunday, yet she refused to be intimidated,” Ms Sewell said in January.

“She marched with Dr Martin Luther King, my colleague Representative John Lewis and thousands of others from Selma to Montgomery and ultimately witnessed the day when their work led to the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Ms Boynton Robinson had asked Martin Luther King Jr to come to Selma to mobilise the local community in the civil rights movement.

Amelia Boynton Robinson and others in Selma in 1965

She worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helped plan the Selma to Montgomery march. She was invited as a guest of honour to attend the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon B Johnson.

Her role in the event was reprised in the movie Selma, in which she was portrayed by actress Lorraine Toussaint.

Ms Boynton Robinson, born in Savannah, Georgia, worked as an educator there and with the US Department of Agriculture in Selma, Alabama. She educated local residents on food production, nutrition, health care and more, according to the Encyclopaedia of Alabama.

Ms Boynton Robinson’s family said in a statement that she was surrounded by relatives and friends when she died at around 2.20am.

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