Amelia Boynton Robinson

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Amelia Boynton Robinson
Ameila Boynton Robinson 2.JPG
Robinson in 2015
Amelia Isadora Platts

(1911-08-18)August 18, 1911
DiedAugust 26, 2015(2015-08-26) (aged 104)
Known for Selma to Montgomery marches
Movement Civil Rights Movement
Samuel W. Boynton
(m. 1936;his death 1963)

Bob Billups
(m. 1969;his death 1973)

James Robinson
(m. 1976;his death 1988)
ChildrenBill Boynton Jr. and
Bruce Carver Boynton
AwardsMartin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Medal (1990)

Amelia Isadora Platts Boynton Robinson (August 18, 1911 – August 26, 2015) was an American activist who was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama [1] and a key figure in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. In 1984, she became founding Vice-President of the Schiller Institute affiliated with Lyndon LaRouche. She was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Medal in 1990. [2] In 2014, actress Lorraine Toussaint played Robinson in the Ava DuVernay film Selma .

Selma, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Selma is a city in and the county seat of Dallas County, in the Black Belt region of south central Alabama and extending to the west. Located on the banks of the Alabama River, the city has a population of 20,756 as of the 2010 census. About 80% of the population is African-American.

Selma to Montgomery marches March for African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote

The Selma to Montgomery marches were three protest marches, held in 1965, along the 54-mile (87 km) highway from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. The marches were organized by nonviolent activists to demonstrate the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression, and were part of a broader voting rights movement underway in Selma and throughout the American South. By highlighting racial injustice, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Schiller Institute is an international political and economic think tank, one of the primary organizations of the LaRouche movement, with headquarters in Germany and the United States, and supporters in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Russia, and South America, among others, according to its website.


Early life

Amelia Isadora Platts was born in Savannah, Georgia, on August 18, 1911 to George and Anna Eliza (née Hicks) Platts, [3] [4] [5] both of whom were African-American. She also had Cherokee and German ancestry. Church was central to Amelia and her nine siblings' upbringing. [6] As a young girl, she became involved in campaigning for women's suffrage. Her family encouraged the children to read. Amelia attended two years at Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth (now Savannah State University, a historically black college). [4] She transferred to Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), earning a degree in home economics in 1927. [3] [4] (Platts later also studied at Tennessee State, Virginia State, and Temple University.)[ citation needed ]

Savannah, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Savannah is the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia and is the county seat of Chatham County. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. A strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War, Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia's fifth-largest city, with a 2017 estimated population of 146,444. The Savannah metropolitan area, Georgia's third-largest, had an estimated population of 389,494 in 2018.

Womens suffrage in the United States womens voting rights in the USA

Women's suffrage in the United States of America, the legal right of women to vote, was established over the course of more than half a century, first in various states and localities, sometimes on a limited basis, and then nationally in 1920.

Savannah State University

Savannah State University is a public historically black university in Savannah, Georgia. It is the oldest public historically black university in the state. The university is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Career and civil rights

Platts taught in Georgia before starting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Selma as the home demonstration agent for Dallas County. She educated the county's largely rural population about food production and processing, nutrition, healthcare, and other subjects related to agriculture and homemaking. [4] [7]

She met her future husband Samuel William Boynton in Selma, where he was working as a county extension agent during the Great Depression. They married in 1936 [4] and had two sons, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver Boynton. Her son, Bruce Carver Boynton, was the godson and namesake of George Washington Carver. [8] Later they adopted Amelia's two nieces Sharon (Platts) Seay and Germaine (Platts) Bowser. [3] Amelia and Samuel had known the noted scholar George Washington Carver at the Tuskegee Institute, from which they both graduated. [9]

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

George Washington Carver American botanist and inventor

George Washington Carver, was an American agricultural scientist and inventor. He actively promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion.

In 1934 Amelia Boynton registered to vote, which was extremely difficult for African Americans to accomplish in Alabama, due to discriminatory practices under the state's disenfranchising constitution passed at the turn of the century. It had effectively excluded most blacks from politics for decades, an exclusion that continued into the 1960s. A few years later she wrote a play, Through the Years, which told the story of the creation of Spiritual music and a former slave who was elected to Congress during Reconstruction, based on her father's half-brother Robert Smalls, [5] in order to help fund a community center in Selma, Alabama. [3] In 1954 the Boyntons met Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where King was the pastor. [9]

Spirituals is a genre of songs originating in America, that were created by African Americans. Spirituals were originally an oral tradition that imparted Christian values while also describing the hardships of slavery. Although spirituals were originally unaccompanied monophonic (unison) songs, they are best known today in harmonized choral arrangements. This historic group of uniquely American songs is now recognized as a distinct genre of music.

Robert Smalls American politician

Robert Smalls was an American businessman, publisher, and politician. Born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina, he freed himself, his crew, and their families during the American Civil War by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, on May 13, 1862, and sailing it from Confederate-controlled waters of the harbor to the U.S. blockade that surrounded it. He then piloted the ship to the Union-controlled enclave in Beaufort-Port Royal-Hilton Head area, where she became a Union warship. His example and persuasion helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army.

Coretta Scott King American author, activist, and civil rights leader. Wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King was an American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. An active advocate for African-American equality, she was a leader for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. King was also a singer who often incorporated music into her civil rights work. King met her husband while attending graduate school in Boston. They both became increasingly active in the American Civil Rights Movement.

In 1958, her son, Bruce Boynton, was a student at Howard University School of Law when he was arrested while attempting to purchase food at the white section of a bus terminal in Richmond, Virginia. Arrested for trespassing, Bruce Boynton was found guilty in state court of a misdemeanor and fined, which he appealed and lost until the case, Boynton v. Virginia, was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court by Thurgood Marshall, reversing lower court decisions. [3] [5]

Howard University School of Law is one of the professional graduate schools of Howard University. Located in Washington, D.C., it is one of the oldest law schools in the country and the oldest historically black college or university law school in the United States.

Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. The case overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only". It held that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal because such segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which broadly forbade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation. It moreover held that bus transportation was sufficiently related to interstate commerce to allow the United States federal government to regulate it to forbid racial discrimination in the industry.

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions.

In 1963, Samuel Boynton died. It was a time of increased activism in the Civil Rights Movement. Amelia made her home and office in Selma a center for strategy sessions for Selma's civil rights battles, including its voting rights campaign. In 1964 Boynton ran for the Congress from Alabama, hoping to encourage black registration and voting. She was the first female African American 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. [3] [7]

In 1964 and 1965 Boynton worked with Martin Luther King, Diane Nash, James Bevel, and others of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to plan demonstrations for civil and voting rights. [2] [10] While Selma had a population that was 50 percent black, only 300 of the town's African-American residents were registered as voters in 1965, after thousands had been arrested in protests. [11] By March 1966, after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 11,000 were registered to vote. [12]

To protest continuing segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks, in early 1965 Amelia Boynton helped organize a march to the state capital of Montgomery, initiated by James Bevel, which took place on March 7, 1965. Led by John Lewis, Hosea Williams and Bob Mants, and including Rosa Parks and others among the marchers, [11] the event became known as Bloody Sunday when county and state police stopped the march and beat demonstrators after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Dallas County. [11] Boynton was beaten unconscious; a photograph of her lying on Edmund Pettus Bridge went around the world. [13] [14]

Then they charged. They came from the right. They came from the left. One [of the troopers] shouted: 'Run!' I thought, 'Why should I be running?' Then an officer on horseback hit me across the back of the shoulders and, for a second time, on the back of the neck. I lost consciousness.

Amelia Boynton Robinson, 2014 interview [14]

Boynton suffered throat burns from the effects of tear gas. [14] She participated in both of the subsequent marches. Another short march led by Martin Luther King took place two days later; the marchers turned back after crossing the Pettus Bridge. Finally, with federal protection and thousands of marchers joining them, a third march reached Montgomery on March 24, entering with 25,000 people. [11]

The events of Bloody Sunday and the later march 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. [4] [5] [15] [16]

Later life

Boynton remarried in 1969, to a musician named Bob W. Billups. He died unexpectedly in a boating accident in 1973. [3] [6] Amelia Boynton eventually married a third time, to former Tuskegee classmate James Robinson in 1976. [3] She moved with him to his home in Tuskegee after the wedding. [17] James Robinson died in 1988. [6]

In 1983, Robinson met Lyndon LaRouche, considered a highly controversial political figure in the Democratic Party. A year later she served as a founding board member of the LaRouche-affiliated Schiller Institute. [18] LaRouche was later convicted in 1988 of mail fraud involving twelve counts, over a ten-year period, totaling $280,000. [19] In 1991, the Schiller Institute published a biography of Robinson, who even into her 90s was described as "LaRouche's most high-profile Black spokeswoman." [20] [21]

In 1992, proclamations of "Amelia Boynton Robinson Day" in Seattle and in the state of Washington were rescinded when officials learned of Robinson's involvement in the Schiller Institute. It was the first time the state had pulled back such an honor. [2] A spokesman for the Seattle mayor said,

It was a very difficult decision. The mayor has a lot of respect for her courage during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but we don't feel her handlers gave us full and accurate information about her current activities. [2]

Robinson said in an interview,

I have had worse things than that done to me when I was fighting for people's right to vote. I have been called rabble-rouser, agitator. But because of my fighting, I was able to hand to the entire country the right for people to vote. To give me an honor and rescind it because I am fighting for justice and for a man who has an economic program that will help the poor and the oppressed ... if that is the reason, then I think they did more good than they did harm. [2]

According to the Associated Press, she said that people get the wrong image of LaRouche because government leaders are spreading lies about him." [2]

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. [4] [22]

From September to mid-November 2007, Robinson toured Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and Italy in her capacity as Vice President of the Schiller Institute. She spoke with European youth about her support for LaRouche (who had denied facts about the 9/11 attacks), Martin Luther King, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as the continuing problem of racism in the United States, which she said was illustrated by the recent events in Jena, Louisiana. [23] [24]

Robinson retired as vice president of the Schiller Institute in 2009. [21]

In February 2011, aged 99, Robinson returned to her hometown of Savannah, to address students at Savannah State University. [25] [26]

After suffering a series of strokes, Robinson died on August 26, 2015 in Montgomery, Alabama, [5] eight days after celebrating her 104th birthday.

Legacy and awards

In 1990, Boynton (by then remarried and using the surname of Robinson) was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal. [2] Her memoir, Bridge Across Jordan, includes tributes from friends and colleagues, including Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young.

Amelia Boynton Robinson at the start of the procession across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Robinson, wearing blue, is holding President Barack Obama's left hand; John Lewis is holding Obama's right. The First Family joined others in beginning the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, 2015.jpg
Amelia Boynton Robinson at the start of the procession across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Robinson, wearing blue, is holding President Barack Obama's left hand; John Lewis is holding Obama's right.

King wrote:

In Bridge Across Jordan, Amelia Boynton Robinson has crafted an inspiring, eloquent memoir of her more than five decades on the front lines of the struggle for racial equality and social justice. This work is an important contribution to the history of the black freedom struggle, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who cares about human rights in America. [27]

In 2014, the Selma City Council renamed five blocks of Lapsley Street as Boyntons Street to honor Amelia Boynton Robinson and Sam Boynton. [28]

Robinson is played by Lorraine Toussaint in the 2014 film Selma, about the Selma Voting Rights Movement and its Selma to Montgomery marches. Robinson, then 103 years old, was unable to travel to see the film. Paramount Pictures set up a private screening in her home to include her friends and family. A CNN reporter was present to discuss the film and her experiences at Selma, and she said she felt the film was fantastic. [29]

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. [4] [30]


See also

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