March 7, 1965. It’s been almost 45 years since Amelia Boynton Robinson was beaten and tear gassed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. She was attempting, along with up to 600 other marchers, to cross the bridge from Selma to Montgomery to protest the earlier shooting of a protestor, as well as advocate for voting rights for Selma’s Black citizens. Now, approaching 99 years of age, Mrs. Boynton Robinson and her friend, Genise Kemp-Brown, came to the Atlanta StoryCorps recording day at the Auburn Avenue Research Library to tell Mrs. Boynton Robinson’s story of courage, determination, and eventual triumph.
“The air was thick with tear gas,” Mrs. Boynton Robinson remembers of the Sunday that became known as ‘Bloody Sunday.’ She said she was gassed so much that almost 45 years later her throat still burns. Front-page pictures the day after the march show Mrs. Boynton Robinson lying unconscious on the bridge. When she woke upÂ in the hospital the next day, Mrs. Boynton Robinson resolved, “I’m going to fight more than I ever [have].”
This story was recorded at Save Our African American Treasures, a project of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture that was hosted locally at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The event was designed to help families learn to preserve their heirlooms, stories, mementos, and memories. Many participants brought in frayed family Bibles that were held together with memories and prayers. Others brought in quilts, family photographs, paintings, and other treasured family items. StoryCorps’ own Anthony Knight and Amanda Plumb led a workshop about preserving oral family histories.
The Atlanta StoryBooth is continuing to partner with the Research Library by holding on-site recording days in February and March. Participants like Mrs. Boynton Robinson demonstrate that the real treasure in any community is the courage of its citizens.
Part of Miss Boynton’s story was edited by WABE and aired during Morning Edition and City Cafe on Tuesday, March 9, 2009. Listen to that broadcast at www.wabe.org/storycorps.