MORE THAN A HOUSEWIFE
Viola Liuzzo was born in Pennsylvania on April 11, 1925. During her teens, her family relocated to Ypsilanti, Michigan where she worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II. She married at age 18, had two children, and divorced six years later. Post divorce, Viola enrolled in medical training school and graduated with honors. She met Teamster Anthony James Liuzzo while waitressing at the Olympia Bar in Detroit; they married in 1951. Viola attended the Universalist Unitarian Church and Wayne State University in the early 1960’s where her interest in the Civil Rights Movement was piqued.
In March 1965, she became active in marches to show solidarity for blacks in Alabama who were seeking federal passage of the right to vote. During the days of March 20 to March 25, 1965, she worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to shuttle civil rights supporters between Selma and Montgomery using her car. On her final loop to pick up the last group, she and local civil rights advocate Leroy Moton, an African American man, were spotted by four Klansmen. Liuzzo was shot to death on Highway 80 while trying to flee to safety. Mr. Moton was lucky to escape by pretending to be dead at the scene of the crash. Three of the Klansmen were apprehended and quickly indicted. The final Klansmen turned out to be an undercover FBI informant who testified for the prosecution.
Viola Liuzzo’s death increased congressional support to pass the Voting Rights Act which President Lyndon Johnson signed in August 1965. Her funeral was attended by Jimmy Hoffa, Walter P. Reuther, Rev. Martin Luther King, William Milliken and others influential in government and Civil Rights.
A small playground at Trojan and Winthrop Streets on Detroit’s northwest side honors the memory of Viola Liuzzo – one courageous mother.
Copyright 2013. Andrea Gallucci. All rights reserved.