Interview with Amelia Boynton Robinson


Amelia Boynton Robinson:

The white employer said to her cook, "Mary, why is it you're so interested in doing something you never thought of before? Registering, when you register, what are you going to do?" She said, "I'm going to vote." "Well, what are you going to vote for because you don't know anything about anybody." She said, "Just like I learned to cook in your kitchen, I can learn how to vote after I become a registered voter." She said, "Mary, we've been voting for you all the time, then what makes the difference. And I know that man that you've got around here calling the county agent, why he is disturbing your minds? And you folk don't know what to do, you'd better look out, he's going to lead you into jail." She said, "Well, I have been registering, I have been trying to register for the longest, and I been down there several times, and I'm going to keep on until I do become a registered voter." But now, you know what a voucher is, now I vouched when my husband died in 1963. The night that he died was the first night that black people had the guts and the courage enough to go down to the church, and that was the Tabernacle Baptist Church, to see what it was all about. Because Bernard Lafayette, who was the first SNCC young man, and that's the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organization—and it was a branch of SCLC, which is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—when my husband passed, he called a number of people, and he went from door to door, and he told them that Mr. Boynton has passed, and we are going to have a mass meeting. The people came in, but they didn't just come without fear, for the streets were lined with all kinds of peop—whites out of the woods who were told, you come in and I'll give you a gun and I'm deputize you, you will be a sheriff. And they came on, however, many of them lost their jobs when the Sheriff, the Police Department found out these people, many of them were working for white people. But I became a voucher, and the sad thing about it is the registrar was an eighth grader, and he could not read many of the applications that were sent down for registered [sic], for people to register and vote. I remember very vividly a man who asked me to vouch for him, and we went up to the registrar, and as he began to write in a very unsteady way, his name and when he wrote his name, he wrote it across the line and the voucher said—the registrar said, "Now, you're going across the line, old man. You failed already. You can't register. You can't vote. You just as well get out of line." And the old man looked at him and said, "Mr. White Man, you can't tell me that I can't register. I'll try anyway. For I own a hundred and forty acres of land. I've got ten children who are grown and many of them are in the field where they can help other people. I've got a man who's a preacher, and a man who's a teacher, and all of them are out there, and I took these hands that I have and made crops to put them through school. If I am not worthy of being a registered voter, than God have mercy on this city." And with that I stepped back. I figured he had said it all. I had nothing to say. But they let him go on and fill the blanks out. After having filled the blanks out, he didn't become a registered voter. And no did, neither did many others for in eight years time, we had less than twenty-five people who became registered voters.