Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Viola Liuzzo: The Unknown Martyr

If you look in a history book, you will never find the name Viola Liuzzo as a martyr for civil rights. However, in 1965, she became an unknown martyr in the hearts of many civil rights activists. She was shot by self-proclaimed KKK members in Selma, Mississippi, during a civil rights march on March 25, 1965. Now, there a memorial on the spot that she died, yet no one mentions her name in the history books. According to Mr. Simkin (1997), she was 36 year old mother of five kids, who wanted to make a difference in the fight for civil rights.

She was married to a man named Anthony J. Liuzzo, who was very supportive of his wife's ambitions. Viola graduated from "Wayne State University" and was pursuing a career as a "medical lab technician" (Simkin, 1997). After she watched 'Bloody Sunday' unfold on television in Selma, Alabama. She empathized with the pain and torment of those who fought for the right to vote.

So she decided to stand up and become a civil rights activist, who helped out with driving people to the marches. They followed martin Luther king and 25, 000 others in a march from Selma to Montgomery. Once getting involved, she witnessed the brutality of other Americans in the south.

As a white woman, she could have decided that it was too dangerous to go, but she was also a trained nurse who felt she may be able help. Then, on the night of March 25, 1965, she was shot in the head twice by three KKK members from Birmingham. Viola was brutally killed, while driving some of the protesters home. However, according the FBI (2006), a man named Leroy Moton was driving and became an eye witness to her murder. Before long, three men were arrested and charged with violating Viola Liuzzo civil rights. According to the FBI (2006), an undercover agent named Carl Rowe was also riding with the KKK members that night.

These self-proclaimed KKK members were Collie Wilkins", "William Eaton", and "Eugene Thomas" (FBI, 2006). They were found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison. Fortunately, the undercover FBI agent Carl Rowe was compelled "testified against them" (Simkin. 1997) in court. In an attempt to discredit Viola, some vicious rumors alleged that she had abandoned her children and husband for a black man's affection.

According to Simkin (19970 these damaging rumors, were believed to have been started by the FBI. Sadly, she tried to stand up for the civil rights of others, but was ultimately was denied her own civil rights.

How come Americans are not taught about her courageous decision to stand up, which ultimately cost her own life? Why did the undercover FBI agent choose not to protect her and her companions? What made them spread this vicious rumor about a woman, who chose to stand up for others and their right to be a free American?

References:

Simkin, John (1997) Spartacus Educational: Viola Liuzzo

Retrieved on the World Wide Web on June 13, 2007

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAliuzzo.htm

Federal Bureau of Investigations (2006) Viola Liuzzo Murder

Retrieved on the World Wide Web on June 13, 2007

http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/liuzzo.htm

Viola Liuzzo Monument


Formally Published on Associated Content/Yahoo Voices. I own all rights to my article.
Copyright 2007, Crystal S. Kauffman
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