Sam Boynton Biography

Civil Rights Activist(d. 1963)
Civil rights activist Sam Boynton and his wife led black voter registration drives and hosted the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Selma, Alabama.

Synopsis

In the 1930s, Sam Boynton and his wife, Amelia, revived the Dallas County's Voter League. In the early 1960s, Boynton and his wife supported the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After he died in 1963, Amelia Boynton was at the forefront of the "Bloody Sunday" March that led to the sign of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Boynton's son, Bruce, was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Personal Life

Samuel William Boynton met his future wife, Amelia Platts, in 1930, when both were working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Selma, Alabama. Amelia was working as the Dallas County home demonstration agent at the time, while Boynton was serving as the Dallas County extension agent. The two quickly discovered their mutual passion for bettering the lives and ensuring the rights of the poor African-American members of their rural community, with sharecropper's rights being of particular concern to both of them.

The couple married in 1936. In time, they welcomed two sons: Bill Jr. and Bruce Carver. Bruce's godfather was famed inventor George Washington Carver, who, in addition to being an innovator of crop rotation and soil preservation, was a close family friend as well as headmaster of the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), Alabama's school of agriculture.

Early Activism

Sam Boynton's early activism included holding African-American voter registration drives in Selma from the 1930s through the '50s. In so doing, he strove to politically empower African Americans of rural Alabama. As president of registration and voting of the Fourth Congressional District, Boynton, along with wife Amelia, was credited with having revived the Dallas County's Voter League as well as for laying the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act.

Boynton's activism was also geared toward convincing local blacks to work for themselves so that they could avoid unfair working conditions and become economically self-sufficient. Boynton's contributions to the Dallas County community included helping them purchase 120 acres of land, building 4-H centers catering especially to African Americans and procuring funding for the construction of the Colored Community Center. Additionally, in the 1940s, he established a recreational center for blacks, Joyland, just outside Selma. Promoting blacks' right to an education was likewise on Boynton's political agenda.

Civil Rights Movement

During the 1950s, Boynton forwarded the Civil Rights Movement by testifying in front of Senate subcommittees. As the movement picked up pace in the early 1960s, Sam and Amelia Boynton supported the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee by turning Sam's insurance office into the organization's headquarters. The couple's own home became a boarding house for fellow civil rights activists, who needed safe cover from threats of violence against them.

Boynton's son, Bruce, by then a law student, also became actively involved in the movement. In 1958, Bruce Boynton was arrested for sitting at the white section of a lunch counter while on a visit home from Howard University. His case, Boynton vs. Virginia, was taken to the Supreme Court. In 1960, the court ruled that interstate travel would be desegregated. The breakthrough paved the way for the Freedom Rides of 1961 and 1964's Civil Rights Act.

Unfortunately, Sam Boynton would not live to see the latter event. He died of a heart attack in Selma in May 1963. His wife, Amelia, vowed to carry on the couple's fight for blacks' equality. In 1964, she and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. planned the Selma to Montgomery March of March 7, 1965.

During the "Bloody Sunday" March, 17 protesters were sent to the hospital, including Amelia Boynton. A newspaper photo of her lying bloody and unconscious drew national attention to the cause. Bloody Sunday prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!