SELMA, Ala. – Amelia Boynton Robinson and her husband, Sam Boynton, turned the yellow house on Lapsley Street into an American landmark. Inside the modest turn-of-the-century bungalow, civil rights activists planned the historic Selma-to-Montgomery marches of the 1960s and inked some of what would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Five decades have now passed since Bloody Sunday, when Alabama state troopers violently cracked down on a demonstration for voting rights. The brutal images of that day turned minds and the course of history, transforming a sleepy city on the banks of the Alabama River into a national symbol. It was proof that a small group of caring people can truly change the world.
But in that half century, the house where that group gathered, strategized and dreamed together has decayed.
In the early 1960s, a newly widowed Boynton Robinson welcomed in other civil rights activists, who soon made her home their command center. They hosted members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, organizing demonstrations against white registrars who tried to prevent blacks from voting.
They sent a letter from that house to Martin Luther King Jr., asking if he would visit their city to lead their voting rights demonstrations. He agreed; King, along with lawmakers and activists from around the country were soon gathering in Boynton Robinson's living room.
On Bloody Sunday, Boynton Robinson, now 103, was clubbed in the head by a policeman on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River. The image of her limp body appeared in newspapers around the world, putting the injustices in Alabama in sharp relief and cementing her status as pioneer of the civil rights movement. Lorraine Toussaint (of "Orange is the New Black" fame) portrayed her in the Hollywood movie about Selma that opened Christmas Day.
But plans to turn the house into a museum came to naught.
In August, a portion of Lapsley Street was changed to Boyntons Street in honor of her and her late husband. But even at the ceremony that unveiled the new street sign, there were rumblings of discontent that the couple's role in history was being honored while the living history of 1315 Lapsley St. was left to rot.
– Nicole Grether contributed reporting
In the early 1960s, a newly widowed Boynton Robinson opened up her home to civil rights activists, who soon made it their command center. She hosted members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who organized demonstrations against white registrars who tried to block blacks from voting.