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Transcript of Viola Liuzzo
Viola became active in local efforts to help her town regain justice. Twice she was arrested for her involvement; she pleaded guilty both times, insisting on a trial to promote the causes for which she was helping.
Early connections to the African American Community:
After her second wedding, Viola met Sara Evans, an African America woman who quickly became her best friend. Sara cared for Viola's children while Viola worked and eventually became the Liuzzo's full-time nanny and house keeper.
Jimmy Lee Jackson and "Bloody Sunday"
In Alabama during February of 1965, a black man named Jimmy Lee Jackson was killed by the police after a voter's rights demonstration. Because of the event, MLK Jr. organized a march from Selma to the capitol of Alabama.
On March 7th, 500 marchers were attacked by the police in what became known as "Bloody Sunday." MLK Jr. asked the people to march again in Selma to protest.
Horrified by the event, Viola drove 3 days to Selma to join the march. When she got there, she initially worked at the hospitality desk registering others. During the march she worked several different jobs. On the last day she walked the last 4 miles to Montgomery barefoot. In this time she met Leroy Moton, a young black activist who shares her cause.
No one was convicted for murder. One of the four, Gary Thomas Rowe, was an FBI informant under the protection of the FBI, and he also received immunity for his testimony. The other three eventually got ten years for violations of Viola's civil rights. Her children tried and failed to get the FBI to notice the illegal acts in their mother's death. The only info of the attack came from word of Leroy Moton and Rowe.
The NAACP held a televised service to honor Viola. Her funeral was attended by many important people, including Martin Luther King Jr.
She was the first white
woman to be killed in the
Civil Rights Movement.
Leroy Moton had been using Viola's car as a shuttle. At the end of the march, Viola offered to drive Leroy back to Montgomery. A car of KKK members spotted the two and followed them. The Klansmen eventually pulled up beside her, shot through the window hitting her twice in the head, and she crashed. Viola died instantly, but Leroy was unharmed. Since Leroy was covered in Viola's blood, he played dead when the Klansmen came to inspect their work, and they bought it. Once the men had left, Leroy left the car and went for help.
Gloria Larry House:
a teacher of English and African American studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is an author and a poet. She has won many awards for her work as a human/civil rights advocate.
This is the story of Viola Liuzzo, who many call, the Color-Blind Angel.
This is the stone marker that was placed on the ground where she died.
Amid the ghosts of civil rights marchers
in the summer so hot,
the children sang in the paths
of the afternoon showers,
"Before I'd be a slave,
I'd be buried in my grave. ..."
From the freedom school window
We watched them come
across the lawns of the housing projects
down the rain-rutted dirt roads,
through the puddles waiting cool for bare feet.
(Touch the dripping bush, break a leaf and smell the pungency of green.)
They were tattered angels of hope,
plaits caught at odd angels
and standing indignantly,
a ripped hem hanging like a train,
grey knees poking through denim frames.
Dancing the whole trip,
they performed their historic drama
against the set of their
wet brick project homes.
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The Color-Blind Angel