The Voting Rights Act Was Signed 55 Years Ago. Black Women Led the Movement Behind It.

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tags: civil rights, African American history, voting rights, womens history

In March of 1965, Amelia Boynton Robinson walked with hundreds of other protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Boynton Robinson, who planned the march from Selma to the Alabama capital of Montgomery along with Rev. C.T. Vivian and others, was struck with a baton by Alabama state troopers that day.

“They came from the right, the left, the front and started beating people," she told The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP, in 2005. “The second time I was hit at the base of my neck. I fell unconscious. I woke up in a hospital.”

A photograph of the incident was widely published in newspapers, and the march, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, was part of the campaign that pushed President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act months later.

The marches drew civil rights icons including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and late Georgia congressman John Lewis to Selma, but long before their arrival "women were the engine of the civil rights movement right from the beginning," according to Lynne Olson, author of Freedom's Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970

"Men always got the attention, but the ones who were really organizing it and were really making it work were women," Olson said. "And that was true going back to the time of the time of abolitionists."

‘Brilliant and politically savvy':The roles of African American women in the fight to vote 100 years ago

Boynton Robinson's mother was a suffragist and she grew up in a "culture of justice," according to Faya Rose Touré, a fellow activist and lawyer. She said Boynton Robinson and her husband Sam, also a voting rights advocate, came to Selma in the 1920s where they started their own insurance business.

"They saw [voting rights] as a key to the road to justice, to equality. They saw it as the key to end Jim Crow segregation in the South," Touré said. "They lived long enough and were smart enough to know that voting rights may not be a panacea, but it was certainly something that could be fought for."

Read entire article at USA Today

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