Among the heroes of the Civil Rights era of the 1960's - there are two lesser-known names that I'd like to focus on this evening (after the jump) .....
But first: Top Comments appears nightly, as a round-up of the best comments on Daily Kos. Surely you come across comments daily that are perceptive, apropos and .. well, perhaps even humorous. But they are more meaningful if they're well-known ... which is where you come in (especially in diaries/stories receiving little attention).Of those who lost their lives in the Civil Rights era of the 1960's, a few stand out. Besides Dr. King, there are Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, the troika of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, plus the four girls killed by a church bombing in Birmingham. But there were several others whose names are not well known .... and I would like to highlight two of them. Perhaps some of the others can be profiled by others reading this?
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One of them is someone I did not know of until - oddly enough - the comments of Antonin Scalia about 'racial entitlement', which caused several essayists to name-drop Viola Liuzzo, who lost her life on March 25, 1965. The other name I did know of .... but only because Jonathan Daniels was a native of New Hampshire, where I have lived the past twenty-five years. Both had a religious common denominator, as well as a reaction to Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965 ...... but were only joined otherwise by their humanity.
Viola Liuzzo was born in Pennsylvania, grew-up first in Tennessee and then came-of-age in the Detroit area. Her third marriage was to Anthony Liuzzo, a Teamsters official, and she had five children between her marriages.
She was an active Unitarian Universalist and her best friend Sarah Evans was a black woman. Viola was influenced enough by her friend to join the NAACP in 1964.
But she was horrified by the events of Bloody Sunday, and that a Unitarian minister named James Reeb was among those killed that day. Even though Viola attended a memorial service for Reeb, and also participated in a Selma sympathy march with her fellow Wayne State University students ...... it just wasn't enough:
Liuzzo called her husband and told him there were "too many people who just stand around talking," that she had to help, and that she was going to Selma for a week. She asked Sarah Evans to explain to her children where their mother had gone and to tell them she would call home every night. Evans warned that she could be killed. Liuzzo replied simply, "I want to be part of it."During the second (and more successful) march to Selma, she and several others did not march themselves .... but instead worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) transportation service ferrying marchers between Selma and Montgomery. On March 25, she and Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old local black activist, headed to Montgomery to pick up the last group of demonstrators waiting to return to Selma. They were spotted by a car with four Klansmen who - while they were hoping to shoot and kill Dr. King - decided that a vehicle with Michigan plates driven by a white woman with a black male passenger ..... would have to do.
Liuzzo was killed instantly (at the age of 39) and Moton, covered in her blood, escaped only by pretending to be dead. Jim Liuzzo learned of his wife's death at midnight.
The following day President Lyndon Johnson called Jim to say, "I don't think she died in vain because this is going to be a battle, all out as far as I'm concerned." Jim told the President, "My wife died for a sacred battle, the rights of humanity. She had one concern and only one in mind. She took a quote from Abraham Lincoln that all men are created equal and that's the way she believed."Her funeral in Detroit was attended by several members of the civil rights community (Dr. King, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins) plus the union movement (Walter Reuther and Jimmy Hoffa, as a result of her husband's work) and even Lt. Gov. (and future governor) William Milliken. And her killing was one of the factors that helped pass the Civil Rights Act. Her story rankles, though, as a result of what happened to her murderers - and believe it or not, the less-toxic aspect was for three of the four.
Within 24 hours, the FBI had taken four suspects into custody, and President Lyndon Johnson praised the bureau for its excellent work. Collie LeRoy Wilkins, 21; William Orville Eaton, 41 and Eugene Thomas, 42 were all tried by Alabama juries - and cleared of any charges, as was common at that time. Federal juries convicted them of violating Liuzzo's civil rights and sentenced them to 10 years in prison (although Eaton died in 1966 before he could serve his sentence).
The fourth man, Gary Thomas Rowe it turned out was .... an FBI informant, and so never served any time as a result of receiving immunity (in exchange for his testimony against the others). Had it been left at that, it might have passed quietly into history.
However, the condemnation of Reeb's murder in Selma had been instantaneous and widespread. That was far from the case for Liuzzo, as many questioned why a mother of five would place herself in harm's way. Her husband was viewed as a failure, as a "Macho Teamster who couldn't keep his woman in line."
This helped our ol' pal J. Edgar Hoover - concerned about lawsuits due to the presence of the FBI informant (who went into the witness protection program for a time) - launched a smear campaign against her. The FBI released her psychiatric records and suggested that Liuzzo was promiscuous, was a drug addict, and had a husband who was involved in organized crime. Her husband died in 1978, still tormented about the gossip surrounding Viola. For a decade he had been trying to persuade the FBI to return her wedding ring to him. They finally did so -- two years after he died.
The family filed a formal suit against the US government in 1979, tried in an Ann Arbor, Michigan, federal district court in 1983 without the benefit of a jury, who might have been sympathetic. On May 27, Judge Charles W. Joiner dismissed it, ruling that there was no evidence of an FBI conspiracy to cause Liuzzo's death.
Some, though, did not forget Viola Liuzzo. Dr. King told her six year-old daughter Penny, "Your mother has not died in vain," at the funeral. Sarah Evans, Viola's best friend, died in January, 2005 at the age of ninety-four, and her efforts have been noted in some recent accounts of what happened in Selma. These include a 2004 documentary entitled Home of the Brave as well as a book entitled From Selma to Sorrow: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo that came out in 2000.
Viola Liuzzo is the only white woman honored at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama ... and perhaps the best testament to her spirit occurred when her daughter Penny was testifying in the family's lawsuit against the government when she encountered Eugene Thomas - one of the men arrested for the murder of her mother, outside the courtroom.
At first, he just stood there and said nothing as he looked at her, Penny says. Then he asked her, "Can you forgive me?"
Penny paused. Then she said, "Yeah, I do."
Thomas' shoulders relaxed, and relief seemed to wash over his face. "Thank you," he said.
Penny says she actually felt sorry for Thomas. He looked like he was in agony. "I didn't hesitate. I could see the look on his face. I'm not out to crush people. Everybody lives with their own torture.''
If Viola Liuzzo seemed an unlikely civil rights activist, the same was true of Jonathan Daniels who was born in Keene, New Hampshire (in the south-west corner of the state). He graduated as the 1961 valedictorian from the Virginia Military Institute and won a fellowship for post-graduate study at Harvard University in English literature. But he soon realized that he was being called to the ministry and enrolled at Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1963, expecting to graduate in the spring of 1966.
Like Viola Liuzzo, he answered the call of Dr. King after Bloody Sunday and (among other things) helped integrate the local Episcopal church and tutored students, returning home in order to take exams). Then, as VMI's tribute page explains:
In August 1965, Daniels and 22 others were arrested for participating in a voter rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama, and transferred to the county jail in nearby Hayneville. Shortly after being released on August 20, Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest, and Daniels accompanied two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, to a Hayneville store to buy a soda. They were met on the steps by Tom Coleman, a construction worker and part-time deputy sheriff, who was carrying a shotgun.
Coleman aimed his gun at sixteen year old Ruby Sales; Daniels pushed her to the ground in order to protect her, saving her life. The shotgun blast killed Daniels instantly; Father Morrisroe was seriously wounded. When he heard of the tragedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels."
A trial ensued, and although the population of the community was largely African American, Coleman was tried and acquitted by an all-white jury He died in 1997 at the age of eighty-six.
Unlike Viola Liuzzo, Jonathan Daniels and his legacy have seemingly met with mostly kindness. Ruby Sales also attended the same seminary that Daniels did, and has remained active in the civil rights arena. He was named as a martyr in the Episcopal Church, his alma mater VMI has instituted the Jonathan M. Daniels Humanitarian Award - which both Andrew Young and Jimmy Carter have received - and a biography aptly-named Outside Agitator came out in 1993.
I am sorry to say that New Hampshire (being one of the last states to recognize Martin Luther King Day) tried to finesse the subject by establishing a Civil Rights Day with Jonathan Daniels used as a prop, in my opinion, to avoid recognizing King. It took until 1999 for that to happen ... and somehow, I think that Jonathan Daniels was watching proudly.
From Dave in Northridge:
From last night's Top Comments diary by Steveningen about his excellent relationship with his in-laws - arizona blue brought a wonderful image (two, actually, but this one made me laugh louder).From Steveningen:
In the diary by Scout Finch about the love story behind the DOMA plaintiffs - kck gives us a personal and beautifully written history of where we were then, where we are now, and a court that needs to catch up.And from Ed Tracey, your faithful correspondent this evening ........
In the front-page story about the parking ticket that an angry Louie Gohmert received - Hillbilly Dem rather unfavorably compares him to a (fictional) governor who didn't berate ..... Barney Fife for giving him a parking ticket.
In the diary by The BigotBasher about the Idaho biology teacher under fire for (during a lesson on the human reproductive system) used the word vagina - both webranding (in a family reference) and Sue B (in a school reference) roll their eyes.
And lastly: yesterday's Top Mojo - mega-mojo to the intrepid mik ...... who rescued this feature from oblivion:
1) I'm "you". by 57andFemale â 145
2) You ask too much of our government. by dov12348 â 124
3) I thought textbooks in Idaho had to use... by Bob Johnson â 116
4) The crazy thing is... by RobertNiles â 114
5) Since tenth graders are all past puberty by lgmcp â 107
6) It's fun to watch how quickly the bigots by commonmass â 98
7) I have only met my grandparents by navajo â 94
8) Let alone bail out the banks every time they by Lily O Lady â 82
9) Thanks once again TeacherKen! by Tackle â 78
10) It wasn't just Iraq by Dartagnan â 77
11) Marriage Equality by josephk â 76
12) I feel your pain by CorinaR â 72
13) But let's talk about entitlements. by Quilldriver â 72
14) The native Americans are right. We don't by Lily O Lady â 66
15) One more time, for Rush or whoever by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker â 65
16) woozles? by Debbie in ME â 59
17) Did you ever ask yourself..... by dweb8231 â 59
18) We had about 6 inches of wet snow on Friday by Lefty Coaster â 58
19) Single Payer or Medicare for all is our... by Shockwave â 57
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21) Pugboat captain. by jwinIL14 â 56
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23) Time to Explore Other Planets by JekyllnHyde â 56
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