Many are expected to tune into President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night but few will have the opportunity to hear his remarks in person -- and among them will be one of the nation’s oldest living civil rights leaders.
103-year-old Amelia Boynton was invited to attend this year’s annual address by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Al.), who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
Boynton is largely known for her efforts during the peak of the voting rights movement in the 1960s. She made headlines in newspapers across the nation after she was brutally beaten by policemen during a march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. The march was later identified as “Bloody Sunday” after Boynton and sixteen of the 600 protesters who demonstrated that day were beaten unconscious and sent to the hospital.
Her story was recently brought to the big screen after actress Lorraine Toussaint portrayed Boynton in the acclaimed and Academy Award nominated film, “Selma.”
“I feel as though Terri and I have a bond that cannot be broken,” Boynton said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “I am delighted that she invited me as her guest to hear our President give the State of the Union address. I appreciate the work of her entire staff and my assistants in Tuskegee who helped make my trip to Washington possible. I will forever remember this day.”
Sewell’s admiration for Boynton does not stop there. Boynton made history in 1964 by becoming the first woman and the first African-American to run for Congress. Although she did not win, she paved the way for Sewell who now, decades later, holds that seat in Congress as Alabama’s first African-American congresswoman.
“I am honored that Ms. Boynton is attending the State of the Union as my special guest. Amelia Boynton challenged an unfair and unjust system that kept African Americans from exercising their constitutionally protected right to vote,” Sewell said.
“She paved the way for me to accomplish all that I have today, and her legacy should inspire us not to take any of our rights for granted.”