1965 March 25

Civil Rights Volunteer Viola Liuzzo Murdered in Alabama

 

Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights volunteer from Detroit, Michigan, was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members near Selma, Alabama, on this day. She was a 39-year-old mother of five children who had been active in civil rights issues in Detroit. She had traveled to Selma to participate in the famous Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march (see the separate entry for this day: March 25, 1965). The FBI was complicit in her murder in at least two ways. FBI informant Gary Rowe was one of the four KKK members in the car from which the bullets were fired. He did nothing to stop the murder. And after her death, the FBI secretly leaked unflattering information about Liuzzo’s personal life, most of which was fabricated by the Bureau.

The trial of one of the assailants ended in a mistrial and a second trial ended in an acquittal. Three defendants (not including Rowe) were tried on federal charges of intimidating African-Americans under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, and convicted on December 3, 1965. Rowe was prosecuted in 1978, but the first trial ended in a mistrial and the second in an acquittal. Civil suits against the FBI for its involvement in the case were unsuccessful. A monument to Viola Liuzzo stands in Lowndes County, Alabama.

Read: Mary Stanton, From Selma to Sorrow: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo (1998)

And also: Gary May, The Informant: The FBI, The Ku Klux Klan, and the Murder of Viola Liuzzo (2005)

Learn more about Viola Liuzzo: http://uudb.org/articles/violaliuzzo.html

Watch the 2004 documentary about Liuzzo: Home of the Brave (2004)

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