The students spent there Thursday morning touring the campus of Tuskegee University and the George Washington Carver House and Museum before spending an afternoon with another civil rights pioneer.
Ms. Amelia Boynton Robinson is 96 years old. She lives just a few miles from Tuskegee’s main campus in a single-story home. She worked with Dr. King before the masses knew who Dr. King was. She knew Rosa Park before Parks refused to give up her seat. Boynton opened her home to the students and chaperones. They sat on her living floor and toured her basement, which she has turned into her own civil rights museum.
Ms. Robinson, who was born in 1911, shared stories about her life and gave students words of wisdom. As pointed out by Ms. Ella Bell, whom the students met at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Alabama, children, Ms. Amelia noted, were the leaders of the civil rights movement. They were in their teens and early 20s, registering people to vote, volunteering with churches and civil rights groups, and, putting their lives on the line, she said.
Ms. Robinson was in her 50s at the height of the movement in the 1960s, but she was helping to register blacks to vote as a teen along side her mother, who was an activist.
As an adult, she worked with Dr. King, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), who used the family’s home in the early 1960s to organize many of the Montgomery marches.
She was part of the Bloody Sunday Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. While marching across Edmund Pettus Bridge, she and others were attacked by state police and sheriffs. She was beaten and left for dead. Other marches yelled for officers to call for an ambulance. After threatening to burn the city to the ground, officers called for an ambulance, which helped save Ms. Amelia’s life.
Despite what she had to endure, Robinson, who turns 97 in August, said she’s learned not to hate.
“Hate weakens you from within,” she said. “Don’t let hate and fear take over. If you think postive all the time, hate will take a back seat.”