Civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson, who endured brutal beatings by state troopers during the "Bloody Sunday" march she helped organize, died Wednesday. She was 104.
Boynton Robinson, who's been called the matriarch of the civil rights movement, had been hospitalized since July following a stroke.
She was one of the organizers of that 1965 march of roughly 600 demonstrators from Selma to Montgomery to demand the right to vote. As the protesters attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they faced state troopers armed with tear gas and clubs. Boynton Robinson was beaten unconscious, and images of her laying on the ground grabbed headlines. The New York Times reports that news coverage of the march
was considered pivotal in winning wide popular support for the civil rights movement. After her release [from teh hospital], Mrs. Boynton Robinson was a guest of honor at the White House on Aug. 6, 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the federal Voting Rights Act into law, an event seen as a direct consequence of the marches.
She marked the 50th anniversary of the pivotal action this March at the bridge, this time holding the hand of President Barack Obama.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, her fight for justice began well before the Selma march and "[l]ong before D.r King came to Selma," as her family had been fighting for voting rights for decades.
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"This nation has lost a crusader, a warrior, and a fighter for justice," Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who helped lead the Bloody Sunday march, said in a statement Wednesday.
"Amelia Boynton was fearless in the face of brutal injustice, willing to risk all she had on the frontlines of change in America. She was arrested, shoved and pushed in front of the Dallas County courthouse by sheriff Jim Clark. She was knocked down on Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as 600 of us attempted to march to Montgomery to dramatize the dire need for voting rights legislation in this country," he stated.
Her loss was also mourned by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) the state's first elected Black congresswoman. Sewell invited Boynton Robinson as her guest for the January 20, 2015 State of the Union. Sewell said that the activist "personified the essence of an American hero through her courageous and passionate fight for the fundamental right to vote for every citizen in this nation."
"As she reminded us in life, there is still much work to be done for this nation to live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all," Sewell's statement continues. "Let us be inspired by the extraordinary life of Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson to keep striving and working towards a more perfect union."