because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Viola Liuzzo

In 1965, Viola Liuzzo could have just been a "good wife and mother" the way women are typically taught to be -- baking cookies, kissing booboo's, and sitting peacefully with her hubby and five children watching "I Love Lucy" on television. But when she saw the images of what was happening to African-Americans who were simply attempting to claim their rights as full citizens in the land of their birth, she couldn't sit on the couch and do nothing.

She had joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People the year before, but that didn't seem to be enough. Then, when police brutally attacked men, women and children as they marched toward Selma, Alabama, on what came to be called "Bloody Sunday," she went to a demonstration at Wayne State University in Detroit (where she and her family were living), but even that didn't satisfy this in-your-face woman. So, Viola Liuzzo packed a suitcase and, telling her husband that this was "everybody's fight," she left for Alabama to march across the bridge to Selma herself with tens of thousands of other demonstrators on March 25, 1965.

After the march, anyone with a vehicle was enlisted to return the many marchers to their points of origin and Liuzzo offered her services and her 1963 Oldsmobile for the purpose. But while driving down Route 80 with a young African-American passenger, Liuzzo was murdered when a carload of Ku Klux Klansmen gave up trying to run her off the road and simply shot her in the head from their moving car. We know who did it not only because her young passenger was missed by the second bullet, but because it came out later that an FBI informant was in the car with the murderers at the time.

Viola Liuzzo was only 39-years-old at the time of her death and she had only been a publicly in-your-face woman for a couple of weeks. But her death helped to fuel the demand for the 1965 Voters Registration Act and has challenged other White Americans ever since to do the right thing, as well. Not bad for two weeks work.

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