February 28: Saluting Amelia Boynton Robinson’s Lifelong Dedication to Fighting for Black People

Amelia Boynton Robinson lived her whole life in pursuit of civil rights. Upon her death in 2015, her son Bruce said, “The truth of it is that was her entire life. That’s what she was completely taken with. She was a loving person, very supportive — but civil rights was her life.”

Educated first at Georgia State College (now Savannah State University) and later transferring to Tuskegee Institute (now University), she would pursue further education at Tennessee State University and Virginia State University after graduating from Tuskegee with a home economics degree.

Mrs. Robinson was the first Black woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama. She had led voter registration drives to get Black citizens to vote in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s — a time marked by poll taxes, beatings, and lynchings for Blacks trying to vote in Alabama — and often similar fates for those trying to encourage them to do so. In 1965, she helped lead the march from Selma to Montgomery on what would become known as “Bloody Sunday” for the brutal beating issued by Alabama State Troopers when the group reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In January 2015, she was honored by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address, and two months later, she would hold hands with the nation’s first Black president as they returned to the Edmund Pettis bridge and once again crossed it in memorial of the 50th anniversary of the atrocities she’d experienced there in 1965.

She herself was brutally beaten on March 7, 1965, like many others, but it did not slow her activism, and she continued fighting for voting, property, and education rights for her people for the remainder of her life.

Autumn A. Arnett is an education reporter and editor and an avid sports fan based in Austin, Texas. www.a2arnett.com