© 2018 Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, and Reconciliation

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8 Mulberry Rd.   |   Selma, AL 36701   |   (334) 526-4539   |   info@SelmaCNTR.org

Boynton Family Board Seat Holder

The Boynton Family Positions, which are filled by couples, were created in honor of the great contributions of the Boynton family to social. political, and economic justice.  These positions acknowledge the central role of family in creating lasting change and in building the beloved community.

About the Boynton Family

{Platts} she taught in Georgia before starting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Selma as the home demonstration agent for Dallas County. She educated the county's largely rural population about food production and processing, nutrition, healthcare, and other subjects related to agriculture and homemaking.She met her future husband Samuel W. Boynton in Selma, where he was working as a county extension agent during the Great Depression. They married in 1936 and had two sons, Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver Boynton. Later they adopted Amelia's two nieces Sharon and Germaine Platts.[citation needed] Amelia and Samuel had known the noted scholar George Washington Carver at the Tuskegee Institute, from which they both graduated.

In 1934 Amelia Boynton registered to vote, which was extremely difficult for African Americans to accomplish in Alabama, due to discriminatory practices under the state's disenfranchising constitution passed at the turn of the century.

It had effectively excluded most blacks from politics for decades, an exclusion that continued into the 1960s. A few years later she wrote a play, Through the Years, which told the story of creation of Spiritual music, in order to help fund a community center in Selma, Alabama. In 1954 the Boyntons met Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where King was the pastor.

In 1963, Samuel Boynton died. It was a time of increased activism in the Civil Rights Movement. Amelia made her home and office in Selma a center for strategy sessions for Selma's civil rights battles, including its voting rights campaign. In 1964 Boynton ran for the Congress from Alabama, hoping to encourage black registration and voting. She was the first female African American to run for office in Alabama and the first woman of any race to run for the ticket of the Democratic Party in the state. She received 10% of the vote.

In 1964 and 1965 Boynton worked with Martin Luther King, James Bevel, and others of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to plan demonstrations for civil and voting rights. While Selma had a population that was 50 percent black, only 300 of the town's African-American residents were registered as voters in 1965, after thousands had been arrested in protests. By March 1966, after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 11,000 were registered to vote.

To protest continuing segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks, in early 1965 Amelia Boynton helped organize a march to the state capital of Montgomery, initiated by James Bevel, which took place on March 7, 1965. Led by John Lewis, Hosea Williams and Bob Mants, and including Rosa Parks and others among the marchers, the event became known as Bloody Sunday when county and state police stopped the march and beat demonstrators after they left the Edmund Pettus Bridge and crossed into the county. Boynton was beaten unconscious; a photograph of her lying on Edmund Pettus Bridge went around the world. Another short march led by Martin Luther King took place two days later; they turned back. With federal protection and thousands of marchers joining them, a third march reached Montgomery on March 24, entering with 25,000 people.

The events of Bloody Sunday and the later march on Montgomery galvanized national public opinion and contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; Boynton was a guest of honor at the ceremony when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in August of that year.

Mama Boynton

By: Malika Fortier

As we marched across the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after grand dragon of the kkk, we sang civil rights songs that strengthened the nonviolent freedom fighters of the civil rights movement over 50 years ago.  It was a beautiful blue sky, sunny day and I relished in celebrating my hero, Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson’s life.  I just called her Mama Boynton.

The movie Selma, produced by Oprah Winfrey released this year during the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Movement, displayed a small part of Mama Boynton’s role in the Voting Rights Movement.  Mama Boynton and her husband, Samuel Boynton, began fighting for African Americans to register and vote in the 30’s.

They both helped sharecroppers get their own land,

so they could register to vote without suffering the retaliation of getting kicked off the white-owned farms.
It was her husband’s passion for voting rights that lit a fire in Mama Boynton, as I learned from the play, Selma the Musical, which chronicles the Boynton’s love story for each other and freedom, written by Faya Rose Toure’. They helped build and lead the Dallas County Voters League which laid the foundation for the Voting Rights Movement.  The first mass meeting for the movement was Mr. Boynton’s funeral at Tabernacle Baptist Church.   Mr. and Mrs. Boynton understood that real freedom could be found at the nexus of political and economic freedom and faced violent behavior for their commitment to both.
          
Mama Boynton had written Dr. King a letter inviting him to Selma but Selma was struck as a possible movement site because it was said that the white folk were too mean and the black folk were too scared. However, Dr. Bernard Lafayette of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (S.N.C.C.) insisted on coming to Selma anyway. He moved in with the Boynton’s and worked out of their office as he organized young people in the streets.  Since President Johnson refused to take on another civil rights issue, King needed a new battle front to convince the President. At that moment Mrs. Boynton and Rev. F.D. Reese invited King to Selma again.
          
On March 7th, 1965 Mama Boynton helped lead the marchers from Selma to Montgomery demanding voting rights from the Alabama governor who had declared “Segregation forever.”  As they marched into the sea of blue uniformed state troopers Mrs. Boynton was knocked unconscious as tear gas billowed up around her.  She later said that the horses were more humane than the people beating them because at least the horses stepped over the marchers.
          
After being present as President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, she promptly organized a grocery store where community members bought shares, to employ those who lost their jobs during the movement.  She convinced Dr. King to use some of his Nobel Peace Prize money to help fund the corporation.
          
Amelia Boynton was the matriarch of a family of civil rights history makers.  Her son, Bruce Boynton (also the godson of the famed scientist George Washington Carver), and his lawyer Thurgood Marshall, won Boynton vs. Virginia before Supreme Court because he sat down to eat at a segregated restaurant in a bus station on his way back to Selma.  His tactics and his case inspired the 1961 Freedom Rides. At Mama Boynton’s home going celebration, the President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said they have never defended people in the same family whose sacrifices had led to so much important change.
          
As my husband, Franklin Fortier, Jr. and I presided over Mama Boynton’s bridge crossing home going celebration, one of the greatest honors of my life, I announced to the crowd that Selma had two symbols of transformation, the bridge and the butterfly and now the Boynton’s.  They demonstrate the power of families in social and economic change.  We honor them at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, and Reconciliation by having couples board positions.
          
As Mama Boynton’s ashes were being poured out in the Alabama River, I rejoiced that her characteristics of quiet dignity and determination are “in the water” since Selma and the Black Belt of Alabama still need help today.  I could hear her saying, “Don’t say you are standing on my shoulders.  Get off my shoulders and fight to build the Beloved Community today”, a paraphrase of something I often heard her say.  Then three white doves were released into the air.  I knew her legacy would live on through another generation. We would build the Beloved Community that Mama Boynton worked almost 110 years to create.  Mama Boynton wrote a book called, Bridge Over Jordan, alluding to the Israelites journey from Slavery to the Promised Land.  It is time for us to possess the land.

 

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Executive Director
Chairman of the Board
Boynton Family Board Members
Board Members
Community Organizers
Advisory Council