- NAME: Viola Gregg Liuzzo
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: April 11, 1925
- DEATH DATE: March 21, 1965
- PLACE OF BIRTH: California (Washington County), Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: Selma, Alabama
- AKA: Viola Gregg Liuzzo
- AKA: Viola Liuzzo
- Full Name: Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo
- Maiden Name: Viola Fauver Gregg
- AKA: Viola Gregg
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Viola Gregg Liuzzo was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. She was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan for her efforts.
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Viola Gregg Liuzzo traveled to Alabama in March 1965 to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.—with its efforts to register African-American voters in Selma. Not long after her arrival, Liuzzo was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan while driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. She was the only white female killed during the Civil Rights Movement.
"[We're] going to change the world. One day they'll write about us. You'll see."
Civil rights worker Viola Gregg Liuzzo was born Viola Gregg on April 11, 1925, in California, Pennsylvania, part of Washington County. Viola Gregg Liuzzo traveled to Alabama in March 1965 to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.—with its efforts to register African-American voters in Selma. Not long after her arrival, she was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Before heading to Selma, Liuzzo had lived in Detroit with her second husband, an official with the Teamsters union, and her five children (two from a previous marriage). Her decision to go to Alabama was driven in part by the events of March 7, 1965, in Selma—also known as “Bloody Sunday.” On that day, approximately 600 civil rights supporters attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery along Highway 80. The group barely got started when they were attacked by state and local police officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge using clubs and tear gas. Liuzzo had watched the brutal assault on the protesters in a news broadcast, and felt compelled to find a way to join the fight for civil rights.
Politically and socially active, Liuzzo was a member of the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She knew firsthand about the racial injustices that African Americans often suffered in the South, having spent some of her youth in Tennessee and Georgia, among other places. Liuzzo may have been aware of the some of the dangers associated with social activism.
On March 9, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. had again attempted to march to Montgomery from Selma with more than 1,500 other civil rights advocates. King decided to return Selma, however, after encountering the state police along the way. That night in Selma, a white minister named James Reeb was beaten to death by a group of segregationists.
On March 21, 1965, more than 3,000 marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr. began their trek from Selma to Montgomery to campaign for voting rights for African Americans in the South. Unlike previous attempts, activists on this march were protected from outside interference by U.S. Army and National Guard troops. The group reached Montgomery on March 25, 1965, and King gave a speech on the steps of the state capitol building to a crowd of approximately 25,000 people. During the march, Liuzzo drove supporters between Selma and Montgomery.
That night, Liuzzo was driving another civil rights worker with the SCLC--an African-American teenager named Leroy Moton--back to Selma on Highway 80, when another car pulled alongside her vehicle.
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"Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." Stated by legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., these words represent a basic human philosophy to which black history's greatest leaders have passionately subscribed. Learn more about the world's most revered civil rights activists, known for their fight against social injustices and lasting impact on the lives of black citizens, including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
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