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You are here: Home / Amelia Boynton Robinson dies at 104

Amelia Boynton Robinson dies at 104

Amelia Boynton Robinson dies at 104 Civil Rights Icon changed America Final Speech at Cinema for Peace Los Angeles
Amelia Boynton Robinson dies at 104

Civil Rights Icon Amelia Boynton Robinson

Amelia Boynton Robinson, a civil rights activist who almost died helping to lead the Bloody Sunday march in 1965, died early Wednesday at age 104.

In 1965, Amelia Boynton Robinson convinced Martin Luther King to march with her on Selma's bridge to fight for voting rights and forever changed the face of America. Determined to keep on fighting until the end, her last two public appearances were at Cinema for Peace in Los Angeles and at the commemoration of the 1965 March with President Obama at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

At Cinema for Peace, Amelia said that she was advised against making the trip to Los Angeles due to her age: "But I was determined to come to Los Angeles. As long as I am breathing, I will be sharing our story."

Amelia began her career in Georgia as an educator and then moved to Alabama in the 30’s with her husband Samuel Boynton. Hand in hand, they started fighting for voting rights in the most destitute parts of the state, which in the 60’s led them to focus on Selma and bring their support to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This is when she relentlessly exhorted Martin Luther King to come to Alabama and march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. After she contacted him three times, MLK finally agreed. Amelia hosted him at her home before the march, which set off from her office.

At the Cinema for Peace in Los Angeles earlier this year, Amelia talked about the situation in 1965: "Black folks were too frightened, white folks were too cruel, but I knew that this march was the way to change."

In March 1965, encouraged by other women who had put their lives at stake in the fight for civil rights, Amelia Boynton together with 600 other demonstrators attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. At the bottom of the bridge, they came across a wall of white state troopers who started firing tear gas and clubbing protesters. Amelia was nearly killed: a trooper struck her on the shoulder and then knocked her to the ground, where another trooper exposed her to tear gas. An appalling photo of her lying unconscious on the ground rapidly hit worldwide news and reached over 60 million people. It was considered pivotal in winning wide popular support for the civil rights movement.

Her actions rapidly paid off as, a few weeks after, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was signed under the presidency of Lyndon B Johnson. Amelia Boynton was invited by Terri Sewell, the first black woman to represent Alabama in Congress, to attend the State of the Union speech. Sewell was strongly devoted to this woman, who had cleared the path for her and many others to come.


One of her last public appearances was at the Cinema for Peace "Real Life Heroes" Award in Los Angeles in February this year. Cinema for Peace congratulated Amelia Boynton Robinson with a special award for her lifetime achievements presented by Kweku Mandela. That day, Amelia taught us a lesson that should be shared with every generation: "There is no room for hate in a heart. There should only be room for love and for forgiveness."

A month later, President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, walked over the Edmund Pettus Bridge alongside the resolute Amelia Boynton rolling on her wheelchair for the commemoration of the 1965 March. Fifty years after the massacre of Bloody Sunday, this photo went around the internet showing the victorious image of a woman that achieved so much progress in such a short time.




In Memoriam: Amelia Boynton Robinson

"Amelia started the Selma protest. She wrote to Coretta, who urged her husband to go down to Selma and take a look. Thus began the defining protest of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. And Amelia was at its heart from day one, when she stood up to Sheriff Jim Clark and was arrested. I read about Amelia and I wrote about Amelia - and finally I met her in person. She was as charming as she was impressive. What a pleasure. What a privilege." - Paul Webb (Screenwriter of the film SELMA)

"I've met many people who have touched me with their words, deeds, and actions, but perhaps the one who affected me most was the one person who I expected it from the least, for she was 102 when we first spoke over the phone. Her super power wasn't reliant on any billion dollar fortune or invincible power. It was her knowledge, grace, words, and voice. She would capture me with the first words she said to me: "I will forever be grateful to make your acquaintance." We talked for sometime about the troubles in the world and then we talked about the light that could shine through that. I was lucky enough to meet her two years later and her charm and grace hadn't diminished at the age of 104. She was still a queen and as she leaves this world all I can say to her is that I will forever be grateful to have made her acquaintance." - Kweku Mandela (Founder of Africa Rising)

"Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King - and Amelia: these are the legends that have helped to make America the land of the free and the home of the brave.” - Jaka Bizilj (Founder and Chairman of Cinema for Peace)

Amelia Boynton's role in the 1965 March is depicted in the award-winning movie "SELMA".

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