The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is profoundly saddened to learn of the passing of Amelia Boynton Robinson, a courageous, iconic founder of the voting rights movement and former LDF client.
As a strong supporter of voting rights in Selma, Alabama in the early 1960’s, Mrs. Robinson was responsible for bringing national civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis to Selma to secure voting rights for Alabama citizens. She helped to plan the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and was herself beaten unconscious by local law enforcement officials when she participated in the march on Bloody Sunday. Immediately thereafter, she and John Lewis and Hosea Williams filed a federal lawsuit to secure their right to march across the Bridge without violence and interference; LDF represented her in the case. When U.S District Court Judge Frank Johnson ruled for Mrs. Robinson, he asked LDF to draw up the logistical plan for the march on her behalf; the march proceeded peacefully on March 21, 1965. These historic events gave rise to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year. This month, the nation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the signing into law of the Voting Rights Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson, with Amelia Boynton Robinson at his side.
“It is difficult to express the great debt our nation owes to Mrs. Robinson for her courage, vision and perseverance” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “She epitomizes the bravery and leadership of committed individuals living in the South who risked everything, including their lives, to strengthen our democracy by insisting on full participation for all citizens. We were proud to represent her 50 years ago in the Selma march case, and we are just as proud of her today.”
Even before the Voting Rights Act was passed, Mrs. Robinson ran for Congress from Alabama making her the first African–American woman ever to do so. She also influenced and inspired generations of activists, including her own son Bruce Boynton, whom LDF represented. After Mr. Boynton attempted to sit in a whites-only section of a bus terminal restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, he was arrested, charged with trespassing, and fined. Led by Thurgood Marshall, LDF won the case in the U.S. Supreme Court, Boynton v. Virginia, which desegregated facilities related to interstate transportation.
In a statement on Mrs. Robinson’s passing, President Barack Obama remarked: “Fifty years ago, [Amelia Boynton Robinson] marched in Selma, and the quiet heroism of those marchers helped pave the way for the landmark Voting Rights Act. But for the rest of her life, she kept marching— to make sure the law was upheld, and barriers to the polls torn down. And America is so fortunate she did.”
LDF is incredibly appreciative of the lifetime of sacrifice which our former client, Amelia Boynton Robinson, gave to the civil rights movement. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. Her legacy as a leader is a formidable one and will live on in our work and the work of so many others. We are eternally grateful for her contribution to our democracy.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization.