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Home of the Brave
Directed by Paola di Florio
Movie Trailer

Thinking much about voter suppression lately, got me to thinking about the Civil Rights Martyrs and of the hard-won right to vote. That's when I discovered this movie at Netflix. Last night, I sat down and watched it, twice.

How soon we forget our Martyrs. How soon we relinquish the rights they won for us at such a cost and with such courage and conviction. We owe them better than that.

Coalminer's Daughter
Teamster's Wife
Mother of Five

Viola Liuzzo was born April 11, 1925 to Herber and Eva Gregg. Her father lost his hand in a coalmine accident, and worked as best he could after that. Her mother was a teacher. In 1951, Viola was a young divorcee with two young daughters, Penny and Mary, when she married Anthony James Liuzzo, a Teamster official. The couple had three more children, Tommy, Tony, and Sally.

Crisis of Faith
& New Journey

Between the births of Tony and Sally, Viola lost two babies. The first was a baby boy who lived a few hours, & the second was stillborn. Daughter Mary describes Viola's reaction:

According to Catholic doctrine, the stillborn baby, an unbaptized child, could never go to heaven, and my mom couldn't accept that. And she said, "If I as a human being, could not do that to a child, how could and all-loving God do that to a child?" And that's when she left the Catholic doctrine and began exploring everything.
From this crisis, Viola began a new journey. She joined the Unitarian Church. She went back to school and studied nursing. She joined the NAACP. And she took greater interest in the events of the day.

Bloody Sunday
March 7, 1965
Selma, Alabama

Viola, like most Americans, was shocked by the scenes of Bloody Sunday. And when Dr Martin Luther King Jr issued the call for clergy and citizens to come to Selma and join the movement, Viola answered that call. Her husband did not try to stop her, or, as one daughter explained, "Perhaps he knew there was no stopping her." Before leaving her family in Detroit and heading to Selma, Viola asked her closest friend, Sarah Evans, to help care for her children should anything happen to her.

March 25, 1965
We Are Not Afraid Today

The 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery took four days. About 6 PM, on March 25th, Viola phoned home. Her son, Tony describes the call:

After my mother called..to say it was over and it had been wonderful..my dad said to be careful. My brother and I started marching around the house singing, "We Shall Over Come"..my dad got very upset with us and told us to stop and explained that it was still very dangerous..two hours later, she was dead."
Viola and Leroy Moton volunteered to drive five marchers back to Selma. On the road back to Montgomery, she was pursued by a KKK "missionary squad" and gunned down. She was reportedly singing "We Shall Over Come" at the top of her lungs as she attempted to outrun her attackers. Moton survived the attack.

Smear Campaign and Terror

The family's grief was compounded by the accusations directed at their mother and the terror directed at them. Rocks were thrown through their windows, garbage dumped on their lawn, and the children were taunted at school. A cross was burned on their lawn. Their home had to be guarded at all times.

The KKK sent them a package claiming that their mother was sexually promiscuous and claiming that semen was found in her vagina after her death. Even J Edgar Hoover joined in with a smear campaign of his own, perhaps to distract attention from the FBI informant who was with the attackers at the time of the murder.

The trials were another ordeal for the family. Please follow links for more on the murderers, the role of the FBI, and the struggle for justice. This diary will focus on Viola and her family.

We're Marching On To Freedom Land

Honored as a Martyr

On the night of her death as the family held each other in grief, Viola's eldest son,  Tommy, 14, looked into the camera and said:

She wanted equal rights for everyone, no matter the cost.
Martin Luther King hailed her as a martyr for civil rights and attended the funeral. President Johnson praised her and pushed to have her murderers brought to justice. And Teamster President James Hoffa compared her bravery to that of the labor martyrs who died in the Ludlow Massacre, the Pullman Strike and the Homstead Massacre. He added:
She had faith in what she believed, and was one of those rare individuals who acted instead of just giving lip service to a principle.
President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on Aug 6, 1965, the ultimate way to honor all the martyrs who lost their lives fighting for equal rights for all. And now today, let us honor their sacrifice by exercising our hard-won right to vote and by fighting GOP efforts to suppress the vote.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Bio:IBT
http://www.teamster.org/...

Bio:UUA
http://www25.uua.org/...

Film review: Home of the Brave
http://www.wsws.org/...

Originally posted to WE NEVER FORGET on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 01:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Protest Music, In Support of Labor and Unions, and History for Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (19+ / 0-)

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

    by JayRaye on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 01:10:39 PM PDT

  •  Viola Liuzzo is a beautiful name (8+ / 0-)

    I was 12 when she died. I grew up near Detroit and her courage and conviction made a big impact on my way of thinking.  I always remembered her beautiful name.

  •  voting is a right -- not a convenience (5+ / 0-)

    IMHO, it is a moral obligation of every American citizen to decide, to the best of our abilities, who receives our vote.  

    Thank you for remembering Viola Liuzzo.   She has always been one of my favorite martyrs to the cause of equality and justice.   I can more easily relate to a modern woman, not someone from the 1800s.  This was recently.  

    It is vitally important that we remember all these folks, of all races, religions, sexual preferences and abilities.  Because, we risk loosing sight of the importance of voting.  And, we risk loosing sight of our own responsibilities as American citizens.  If we don't take responsibility, others will be all too happy to oppress.

    •  No, we have not forgotten Viola Liuzzo. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye, Mary Mike, BlueStateRedhead

      I'm 58 and was growing up in a conservative town in California when this happened and it had a huge impact on us. My mother was the same age as Viola Liuzzo, a white middle class member of the NAACP and active in farm-worker issues, too. Our neighbors thought we were "commie dupes" or worse, but we were in no real physical danger, just social complications. This woman's courage was so humbling and was the subject of many conversations in our home.

      I can't tell you how many times over these many years I have thought of Viola when I was compelled to do or say something that would "get me in trouble" and I asked "will this cost me my life? Then what am I worried about?"

      I've always hoped that Viola's family realized she was not forgotten and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks of her often. Thank you Bullfrog Films - you guys rock and I'm so glad this film has been made.

  •  Thank you for remembering Viola Liuzzo's (4+ / 0-)

    courage and sacrifice. It was a hard loss for those who loved her.

    It is also important to remember just how dedicated to hatred and violence the white supremacists of the deep South were, and how few of them ever had to answer for any of their crimes.

    Please stop by my tribute diary, RIP alliedoc, so that the messages to her family can include yours.

    by peregrine kate on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 01:52:14 PM PDT

    •  Thank you, kate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mary Mike, BlueStateRedhead

      And even in this case, where they did eventually have to answer for their crime, the punishment was light compared to the crime.

      But, perhaps, the best punishment for them and their ilk is to us to VOTE and put an end to the political powers which help to shield them from the justice that they deserve.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

      by JayRaye on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 02:42:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was in High School when Liuzzo was murdered (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueStateRedhead, JayRaye

    I personally knew people who marched at Selma. So it was quite a shock. Even more shocking was the reaction of many of my supposedly liberal friends. Liuzzo was smeared and her dedication to her children was questioned. It was unbelievable.

    It wasn't just incidents such as these, but the reactions by "good" citizens that moved me leftward toward the more radical end of the political spectrum.

    Thanks for the diary.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 03:50:42 PM PDT

  •  The Voting Rights act is owed to Viola Liuzzo (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye

    Viola Liuzzo

    It is surmised by many (civil rights activists, Liuzzo's children, etc.) that Liuzzo's death helped with the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which removed barriers to voting such as literacy tests and poll taxes. President Lyndon B. Johnson also ordered investigation immediately after the death

    "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

    by BlueStateRedhead on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 04:03:06 PM PDT

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