Survivor Of 'Bloody Sunday,' Amelia Boynton Robinson, Dies At 104
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Yesterday, one of the giants of the civil rights movement died. Amelia Boynton Robinson passed away just one week after celebrating her 104th birthday.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
She was a pioneer in the voting rights movement and one of the organizers of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. During that march, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, state troopers knocked her out, beat her with night sticks, as she and 600 other demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
GREENE: A dramatic news photo from that day showing Boynton Robinson lying beaten and unconscious in the street is credited with helping spur the passage of the Voting Rights Act. She described the experience to NPR in 2005.
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AMELIA BOYNTON ROBINSON: They came from the left. They came from the right. They came from in front of us. The first thing - I think I fell, but I got up with more determination. And when I looked around, as Reverend Reese said, there was blood. People were running. People were being beaten.
GREENE: When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law later that year, Boynton Robinson was a guest of honor. And she made history in other ways, as well, as the first black woman to run for Congress in Alabama.
INSKEEP: OK, she didn't win, but current Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell says she paved the way for future generations.
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TERRI SEWELL: I am certain that I would not stand before you today as Alabama's first black congresswoman without the tremendous contributions of this amazing woman.
INSKEEP: And in a 2009 interview with our project Story Corps, Boynton Robinson said the experience in Selma defined her life.
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ROBINSON: Somehow, there was a determination in me that said, I'm going to keep on. I'm going to fight more than I ever had because it's got to be better. It can't be worse. I had that determination, and this struggle gave me a determination to keep it up.
GREENE: Last March, Amelia Boynton Robinson crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge once again to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march that changed civil rights history. She was in a wheelchair this time, and she was holding the hand of the first black president of the United States.
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