America the Beautiful: KKK killings edition
When Amercia was Free:
The murder of Viola Liuzzo was one of the most shocking moments in the civil rights movement. On a winding, isolated road outside Selma, Liuzzo was ambushed and shot to death by a car full of Ku Klux Klansmen.
She was murdered while giving a ride to a 19-year-old black man, Leroy Moton, one of many civil rights marchers she had driven around Selma. Liuzzo had joined the movement’s carpool system soon after arriving in the small Alabama town. Liuzzo’s murder became international news. Her photo became a fixture in history books. Her name has been inscribed on civil rights memorials throughout the United States.
But people had far less sympathy for Liuzzo when she was murdered. Hate mail flooded her family’s Detroit home, accusing her of being a deranged communist. Crosses were burned in front of the home. Her husband, Anthony Liuzzo Sr., had to hire armed guards to protect his family.
A Ladies’ Home Journal magazine survey taken right after Liuzzo’s death asked its readers what kind of woman would leave her family for a civil rights demonstration. The magazine suggested that she had brought death on herself by leaving home — and 55% of its readers agreed.
“It was horrible,” Penny says. “People sent [copies of] this magazine that showed her body in the car with the blood and bullet holes. They called her a white whore and a nigger lover, and said that she was having relations with black men.”
Even Sally did not escape the public’s wrath. Students threw rocks at her and taunted her on the way to school, Penny says.
The family says they were even more devastated when they learned years later who had initiated the public backlash — J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. To absolve itself of culpability in her death — an FBI informant was in the car with the men who killed Liuzzo — the FBI released her psychiatric records and directed a smear campaign to suggest that Liuzzo was promiscuous.
Christian Nation America responded to the death of a Voting Rights Activist in 1965 with anger and derision…directed at members of the surviving family. I’d write more here if I could but I can’t find the words.