Amelia Boynton: 103-Year-Old Civil Rights Icon Opens Up About Race

February 25, 2015 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Amelia Boynton, 103, one of America’s oldest civil rights activists is in the spotlight thanks to the movie Selma. The 103-year-old woman, who was portrayed in the flick by Lorraine Toussaint is credited for gathering public support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, she was also the face of Bloody Sunday after being beaten by police officers. In a recent interview, Boynton opened up on the state of race, how she pushed Dr. Martin Luther King to march to Selma and how honored she was to attend the State of the Union.

amelia boynton 103

Amelia Boynton, 103, who was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama, in a recent interview, she shared her thoughts on the topic of race in America. Amelia Boynton, who is now known as Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson, told her incredible life story in the book entitled Bridge across Jordan.

She pushed Dr. Martin Luther King to march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, this was shown recently on the big screen in the Oscar-nominated movie by the same name. Lorraine Toussaint took on the role of Boynton.

At the age of 11, Amelia Boynton already had a foot in social activism as she helped her mother, Anna Platts, fight for women’s rights. The bright young woman attended Georgia State and later went to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where she earned a degree in home economics

She became a teacher and in 1934, she was one of the first African-American women to register to vote in Alabama. Mrs Boynton Robinson was also the first female African-American Democratic congressional candidate in Alabama, she did not win, but finished with 11% of the vote

A mother of two and a widow, she worked with another activist, Andrew Young, approached Dr. Martin Luther King and told him to march to Selma after the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson in February 1965. Amelia Boynton, 103, said that she was not afraid to talk to King. She explained in her book:

“Just before Christmas in 1964 and said, ‘You need to come and help us in Selma,’ and that is where the Selma movement started. At that moment, a heavy burden fell from my mind and I was ready to suffer if need be.”

And suffered, she did. The marchers, which included John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Bob Mants and Rosa Parks, were greeted at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by Sheriff Jim Clark‘s officers who were told to strike those who refused to leave. The officers were armed with guns, billy clubs, cattle prods, tear gas canisters and masks.

Boynton Robinson was severely beaten at the event aka “Bloody Sunday” and an iconic image of her collapsing to the ground, was seen all over the world and she became the face of the civil rights era. The 103-year-old icon, revealed:

“I will forever remember this day. I wondered why they were beating them so. I couldn’t understand. Whatever happened after that, I was told. I don’t know how long I stayed there. But somebody said, ‘she’s dead’ and one of the young boys tried to drag me off.”

Along with King, Robinson, was invited by President Lyndon B. Johnson to attend the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Boynton Robinson attended an Oscar event last Sunday, where she talked about the civil rights era, she said:

“Thank god I learned that color makes no difference. My parents [were] an example for what they wanted their children to be.”

Nicknamed the Matriarch of the Voting Rights Movement, 103-year-old Amelia Boynton Robinson, who attended the State of the Union address last month, had the following to say on President Barack Obama:

“I look at our president and see hate coming out of the minds of so many people because of his color. People have hate within their souls and that’s what we have to get rid of. I think so often of what my mother said when people felt they couldn’t get rid of the evilness and hate [in the world]. She used to say, ‘You are not evil. You’re not mean. You’re not hateful. Lift up your heads — you are descendants of Him.’”

She also opened up about the Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice killings by saying that these kind of police brutalities remind her of Jim Crow and she hopes the new generation will pick up the reins of a struggle her generation launched.

Amelia Boynton, 103, will be attending the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in March 2015.

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