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.
Why do we not know the story of Viola Liuzzo, while nearly everyone has heard of Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney — the three rights workers killed the year before in Mississippi? The reasons are complex, and won’t be found in history books.
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 — succeeded in erasing Viola Liuzzo from our cultural 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.