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International Women's Day: Amelia Boynton

‘A voteless people is a hopeless people’ - Amelia Boynton

Published on 02 Mar 2021
composite image of Amelia Boynton marching for Civil Rights as a young woman alongside her marching with Obama as an older woman

When remembering the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, we often remember the prominent male leaders such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The women of the movement are often pushed to the back of history and forgotten about. Amelia Boynton’s lifelong activism is a perfect example of this.

Amelia Boynton dedicated her life to fighting for civil rights in America, primarily for the constitutional right for all African Americans to vote. She was brought up by a family who instilled the belief in her that she could achieve anything she desired. Her mother was a part of the suffragist movement, and Boynton witnessed her work helping women register to vote. This influenced her and she aimed to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Boynton’s activist work was extremely influential before, during and after the historic Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, though her challenge to voting rights is often unacknowledged in history. She went to great lengths to encourage Black Americans to register to vote and was the first ever woman to run for congress on a democrat ticket, hoping to show African Americans how they could be represented and encourage them to register. Although she did not win, she gained more than 10 percent of the vote, not only from the few registered black voters, but white voters too.

Boynton was a key organiser in the Selma to Montgomery marches held in 1965, organised alongside other nonviolent activists with the aim of demonstrating the desire of African Americans to gain the right to vote. These marches highlighted the racial injustices the black community faced and ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, on 7 March 1965, the day of the first march, state troopers attack the marchers with clubs and tear gas as they crossed the county line, this became known as Bloody Sunday. These tactics have also been seen in recent Black Lives Matter protests, showing America’s racial history in contemporary times. On this day Boynton was attacked and knocked unconscious by a state trooper and taken to hospital for her injuries. The events of Bloody Sunday horrified the nation and helped gain media coverage which ultimately gained support for the movement. This would not have been possible without Amelia Boynton’s organisation and influence.

Amelia Boynton dedicated her life to challenging an unjust system and succeeding. However, her influence is often forgotten and overshadowed by her male counterparts. She deserves to be brought to the forefront of history and remembered for all her achievements in the fight for civil rights and beyond.

composite image showing the similarity of police brutality tactics against African Americans throughout history

Protesters being tear gassed