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Civil Rights Activist Amelia Boynton Robinson Dies At 104


Amelia Boynton Robinson died today in Alabama. She was 104 years old. Robinson was a civil rights activist who helped organize what became known as the Bloody Sunday march of 1965. Kyle Gassiott of Troy Public Radio has this remembrance.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: Amelia Boynton Robinson used to say she began her career as a political activist writing by her mother's side in a horse and buggy. In Savannah, Ga., her mother would take her along to distribute photo registration information to women not long after the passage of the 19th Amendment. At the height of the civil rights movement, she was among the few African-Americans in Selma who had successfully registered to vote, and she was one of a group of activists who wrote to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., urging him to join the civil rights movement in Selma. Actress Lorraine Toussaint played Boynton Robinson in the 2014 film "Selma."


LORRAINE TOUSSAINT: She'd been jailed I can't tell you how many times. She'd been beaten. She'd been harassed. This woman has taken a hit, literally and figuratively, for the movement.

GASSIOTT: A photograph of her beaten unconscious became one of the iconic images of the attempted crossing of Edmund Pettus Bridge in March of 1965. She and other marchers were in route to Montgomery to call for voting rights when state troopers began to beat the demonstrators with clubs. In an interview five years ago with StoryCorps, Boynton Robinson remembered being hit below her shoulder.


AMELIA BOYNTON ROBINSON: When this guy hit me the second time at the base of my neck, then I became unconscious.

GASSIOTT: Later, she remembered hearing Selma Sheriff Jim Clark say...

ROBINSON: I don't care if anybody's dead. Oh, let the buzzards eat them.

GASSIOTT: Boynton Robinson recovered from the beating and a few months later was invited by President Lyndon Johnson to be present for the signing of the Voting Rights Act. In March of this year, at an event commemorating the Selma protest, President Barack Obama crossed the bridge hand-in-hand with Boynton Robinson. Today, the White House released an official statement calling her a dedicated and courageous leader. The family of Amelia Boynton Robinson is planning a memorial ceremony in early September in Selma at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiott in Montgomery. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kyle Gassiott