Amelia Boynton Robinson: The pioneer civil rights activist

Amelia Boynton Robinson, the matriarch of the voting rights movement, is known for her struggles and sacrifices that brought change in American political system.

She was among those beaten during the voting rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in March 1965 that is known as “Bloody Sunday”. The troopers tear-gassed and clubbed the marchers as they tried to cross the bridge. Her photo in a newspaper, that showed her beaten unconscious, drew wide attention to the movement.

Mrs. Boynton Robinson was one of the organizers of the march, the first of three attempts by demonstrators in March 1965 to walk the 54 miles from Selma, Alabama, to the capital, Montgomery, to demand the right to register to vote.

As shown in “Selma” the Oscar-nominated 2014 film directed by Ava DuVernay, Mrs. Boynton Robinson (played by Lorraine Toussaint) had helped persuade the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who would lead the second and third marches, to concentrate his efforts in that city.

Bloody Sunday took place on March 7, 1965. As they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, some 600 black demonstrators, led by John Lewis and the Rev. Hosea Williams, were set upon by Alabama state troopers armed with tear gas, clubs and whips. Walking near the front of the line and subject to the full force of the troopers’ blows, Mrs. Boynton Robinson, then known as Amelia Boynton, was knocked unconscious.

Half a century later the first black president of the United States Barak Obama joined her in a trip across the bridge during a commemoration. Frail, but resolute, Robinson joined the other veterans in the ceremonial bridge crossing in her wheelchair.

Mrs. Robinson reminisced in an interview that she could have died in the 1965 incident, but it made her even more resolute and determined to do anything that could make African Americans, the first-class citizens, and destroy the fear in them. She was invited to the White House for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A monument in her honor stands at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

In 1964, Robinson became the first African American and first female democratic candidate to run for US Congress in Alabama. She received 11 percent of the primary votes in an area where only 5 percent of African Americans could vote. In the same year, she invited King and the SCLC to Selma, and she organized the Selma to Montgomery rights March.

Among her laurels is the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Medal, which she received in 1990. Amelia Boynton Robinson was an amazingly strong and inspiring woman who had great vision and courage, strength, and her life will continue to inspire every single citizens of the world till eternity.