Amelia Boynton Robinson
Amelia Robinson was born in 1911 in Georgia, in a family of 10 children. Her father was a building contractor. She traces her history on both sides back to a mixture of African slaves, Cherokee Indians, and German and other European nobility.
The account of the life of this remarkable woman is given in theBridge Across Jordan, published by the Schiller Institute in July1991. Bridge Across Jordan is the account of Mrs. Robinson's life-long struggle for civil rights and human rights for citizens of all colors.Amelia Boynton Robinson is perhaps best known as the woman at the front of the march who was gassed, beaten, and left for dead on Edmund Pettus Bridge, during the Bloody Sunday march on March 7, 1965 to Montgomery, Alabama, which quickly led to the mushrooming of the civil rights movement into an international mass movement.
But Amelia Robinson's efforts for justice and civil rights began long before 1965. From the1930s, she and her husband, S.W. Boynton, fought for voting rights and property ownership for African-Americans in the poorest rural areas of Alabama, where she worked as Home Demonstration Agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he as County Agent. Bill Boynton gave his life for this cause, dying young of a heart attack induced by the years of hard labor and harassment his work brought on.
During the 1960s, Mrs. Robinson's home and office became the center of Selma's civil rights battles, used by Dr. King and his lieutenants, by Congressmen and attorneys from around the nation, to plan the demonstrations that would lead eventually to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1964, she was the first female African-American ever to seek a seat in Congress from Alabama, and the first woman, white or black, to run on the Democratic ticket in the state.
Amelia Robinson today is a leading member and Vice Chairman of the Schiller Institute, founded by Lyndon LaRouche and Helga Zepp-LaRouche in 1984. Mrs. Robinson considers the Institute to befollowing in the footsteps of Martin Luther King.
In April-May of 1990, Mrs. Robinson spent five weeks touring East and West Germany for the Schiller Institute, where she addressed thousands of German citizens about the Lessons of the Martin Luther King movement for Germany today.
On July 21, 1990, Mrs. Robinson was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal, honoring her lifelong commitment to human rights and civil rights.
Today, in her 90s, Mrs. Robinson is a vibrant leader, touring the nation and the world, speaking for the Schiller Institute on behalf of the principles of civil rights and human rights whose cause she has championed for more than five decades.
Scroll all the way down for more biographical material about Amelia Boynton Robinson and her work.
Courtesy of Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson with President Lyndon Johnson at the White House with other Civil Rights Leaders in 1965.
©EIRNS/Stuart K. Lewis
Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson addressing Loudoun Valley High School seniors at graduation ceremonies, June 19, 2001 in Purcellville, VA
At the Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama, 2002
"Passing the baton" to the LaRouche Youth Movement,
Bridge Across Jordan, published by the Schiller Institute in July1991 is the account of Mrs. Robinson's life-long struggle for civil rights and human rights.
"In Bridge Across Jordan, Amelia Boynton Robinson has crafted an inspiring, eloquent memoir of her more than five decades on the front lines of the struggle for racial equality and social justice. This work is an important contribution to the history of the black freedom struggle, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who cares about human rights in America".
-----Coretta Scott King
"Amelia Boynton Robinson came to visit us in Atlanta, and invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, to come to Selma. At that time Selma was almost under as many restrictions as South Africa. It was against the law for more than four people to meet in a public place, and no more than three people could walk down the street together for any purpose. In joining Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to help free Selma, Amelia Boynton helped to develop the pattern that led to a worldwide human rights movement, and the victories in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Southern Africa and China all bear the influence of the Selma Movement."
"If some day in the not to distant future the true history of the United States were to be written, then the name of Amelia Boynton Robinson should take a prominent place therein. When the memory of all the mediocre and corrupt politicians, who in their time were so much played up by the media when American found itself in decline, then Amelia will be known and loved by future generations. It will be said of her that she was one of those extraordinary individuals who saved the honor of the United States, by fearless resistance to the tyranny that was trampling on human rights.
---Helga Zepp LaRouche
Through the Years
THROUGH THE YEARS was written in 1936 by civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson, as a means to uplift the rural African-American populace of Alabama. It helped to raise money, during the Great Depression, to build a community center in then-racially secregated Selma. THROUGH THE YEARS tells the fictional story of Joshua Terrell, who, like the statesman Frederick Douglass, and Mrs. Robinson's own ancestor, Reconstruction Congressman Robert Smalls, overcomes the adverse circumstances of birth as a slave. He learns to read, escapes on the Underground Railroad, leads a regiment of Union Army soldiers, and becomes a U.S. Congressman. Joshua's descendants become businessmen, doctors, scientists, educators and musicians. The drama uses the unaccompanied African-American Spiritual to mediate its narrative.
From the 1995 Performance Program:
"Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson probably reveals more clearly than anyone else the fact that the liberation of African-American people is the business of God. Before the world knew that there was a Martin Luther King, Jr., C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young or Hosea Williams, or before a Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, John Lewis, Marion Barry, or Diane Nash were born, Amelia was fighting illiteracy and fear in African-American people with love.
"Not only did she raise the moral and intellectual standard of her people through education, in 1936, she wrote the playThrough the Yearsto further inspire the people and to raise funds to carry on the liberation struggle.
"The play is really about Amelia, who in 1961 invited the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to Selma in the persons of Bernard and Colia Lafayette to conduct a voter registration drive.
"When it became clear that voter registration was not possible, Amelia, in 1964, invited the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to conduct its Alabama Right to Vote Campaign.
"She was manhandled by Jim Clark once at the courthouse, beaten by Al Lingo on Bloody Sunday (March 7, 1965), and today she stands tall, still fighting for scientific education and a just economic policy that is in keeping with Christian and constitutional principles.
"To those who think the movement ended at the death of Dr. King, please be informed that the movement is God's business. And it is God, working through Amelia, and those who join her, who will get us to the Promised Land that King spoke of the night before his ascendancy.
"So let me thank Amelia and let me thank the Schiller Institute, Howard University, and you who have come to join God and Amelia in continuing the struggle to liberate all people."
.....The Rev. James L. Bevel
A Musical Celebration of the Struggle to Secure
the Inalienable Rights of Man
Message from Amelia Boynton Robinson
"Once in the life of every man, there comes a moment to decide." In the joyful work in which we participated with the prophet Martin Luther King in the 1950s and 1960s, we were privileged to see Americans, from the most diverse backgrounds, decide to risk "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" on behalf of the principle of Sacred Love.
Dr. King referred to love as "creative non-violence." We would add, that the principle of Sacred Love is the beginning of the principle of government, for "if a man cannot govern himself, how can he govern others?" By purifying our own motives, we were able to unleash a social force that no tyrant, no racist, no bureaucracy, and no honest heart or mind, was able to resist.
Now, today, almost thirty years later, that same force is needed, more than ever before. And, we recently saw this force of Love act in November of 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. A battle that everyone presumed could not be won without nuclear war, was won without the firing of a shot, without the death of one individual.
Often, it was music which carried the day against munitions. In Leipzig, it was the Leipzig orchestra and its conductor, who helped to stop the secret police from massacring demonstrators. In the streets of Prague, a week after a student had been killed in a demonstration, hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets to defy the regime, and many sang "We Shall Overcome--Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day."
The poem of Friedrich Schiller, after whom our Institute is named, "Ode To Joy," was sung in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing; and in Berlin, where people danced on the broken-down Wall, the music of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony greeted the newly liberated East German citizens as they walked through to the West.
Three years after these events of 1989, I participated in the founding of the International Civil Rights Solidarity Movement, in November of 1992, in Germany. This action was initiated by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, the founder and Chairman of the Schiller Institute, whom I call my "adopted daughter." I was pleased to be there, for I had the honor, in 1964, to invite Dr. King, the Rev. James Bevel, and their organization, into Selma, Alabama, to register the African-American population of that city to vote. This was work that I and my husband, the late William Boynton, had done for thirty years, with the Dallas County Voters League.
I had been in Selma, at the start of that great movement, so I was proud to be in Germany at the start of a new great movement. With me was my "son," Reverend Bevel. I am sure that Dr. King, had he been alive, would have been there with us.
I want you to know, that I have found that the work of such people as Martin Luther King, Jr., Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and Paul Robeson, is much better appreciated, and in some cases better known, in Europe than in the United States. I believe that we must, if we are to survive as a nation, honor these people and the principles for which they stood.
Music cannot be separated from the struggle of the Americans in the civil rights movement, for the inalienable rights of all men. In fact, I believe that we must teach our children the great repertoire that these singers performed, for it was the spirit of these songs that "pulled us through the wilderness." People sing them all over the world, and use them in their struggles. So why have we, in our darkest hour of need, in the 1990s, abandoned them?
We are commemorating the struggle to secure our inalienable rights at Constitution Hall, where so many of our artists were denied, earlier in this century, the right to perform. We want to see the hall overflowing with the people for whom these performers, and Dr. King, have given their lives. We want the rafters of Constitution Hall to ring with the joyful voices of those who say, "Yes, we recognize and appreciate what you have done for the world, and for us, Mr. Hayes, Miss Anderson, Mr. Robeson, Mrs. Maynor, and all of the others who came before and after you."
In this way, we would consecrate Constitution Hall in the name of Sacred Love. And, the next day, when we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the March on Washington, and Dr. King's inspired speech, "I Have A Dream," we will silently, and proudly, respond, "The people for whom you have fought and died, have come out of the wilderness, and are headed, singing, to the Promised Land."