This Day in History

March 25, 1965: Viola Liuzzo Murdered by KKK After Selma to Montgomery March

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Civil Rights Movements

Portrait by Erin Currier.

Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old Detroit mother of five married to a teamster’s union leader, joined thousands of people converging in Selma, Alabama for the march on Montgomery in 1965.

Shortly after the historic Voting Rights March had ended on March 25, 1965, she was shot in the head and killed by a car full of Klansmen, while driving on a deserted highway.

Immediately following her murder, Liuzzo became the target of a smear campaign, mounted by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI [COINTELPRO], as a means of diverting attention from the fact that a key FBI informant was in the car with Liuzzo’s killers. This discrediting of her name — mostly based on her gender and wholly unfounded — contributed to the erasing of Viola Liuzzo from textbooks and public memory.

The description above comes from the filmmakers for a documentary film about Viola Liuzzo called Home of the Brave. Told through the eyes of Liuzzo’s children, the 2003 award-winning film follows the on-going struggle of her family to survive the consequences of their mother’s heroism and the mystery behind her killing.