Civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson was born Amelia Platts on August 18, 1911 to George and Anna Platts of Savannah, Georgia. Both of her parents were of African American, Cherokee Indian, and German descent. They had 10 children and made going to church central to their upbringing. She died on August 26, 2015 at the age of 104.
Boynton spent her first two years of college at Georgia State College (now Savannah State University), then transferred to the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama. She graduated from Tuskegee with a home economics degree before further pursuing her education at Tennessee State University, Virginia State University and Temple University.
After working as a teacher in Georgia, Boynton took a job as Dallas County’s home demonstration agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Selma, Alabama.
Her early activism included holding black voter registration drives in Selma, Alabama from the 1930s through the ‘50s. In 1964, she became both the first African American woman and the first female Democratic candidate to run for a seat in Congress from Alabama. The first attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge into the county became known as Bloody Sunday, as police halted the march and beat demonstrators. Boynton was rendered unconscious and a famous photograph of her lying on the bridge was seen around the world. Two marches later, the activists made it, with their efforts contributing to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, where Boynton was President Lyndon Johnson’s guest of honor at the signing.
In 1990, Boynton won the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom Boynton and first husband Samuel W. Robinson had two sons together, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver Boynton.