MARCH 25, 1965

Viola Gregg Liuzzo stood among the crowd of 25,000 gathered outside Alabama’s state Capitol in Montgomery, some of whom had been beaten and tear gassed by state troopers after crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma. The Detroit mother of five wept as she watched that “Bloody Sunday” broadcast on the evening news. Afterward, she heard and responded to Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to join the march for voting rights for all Americans. 

“[We’re] going to change the world,” she vowed. “One day they’ll write about us. You’ll see.” 

Now she listened as King spoke to the crowd, some of whom had beaten as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 

“The burning of our churches will not deter us,” he said. “The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now.” To those who asked, “How long?” King replied, “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” 

After King finished, Liuzzo was helping drive marchers back to Selma when Klansmen sped after her. She floored her car, singing, “We Shall Overcome,” as Klansmen shot into her car 14 times, killing her. 

Two Klansmen were convicted of federal conspiracy charges and given maximum sentences of 10 years. King and Liuzzo are among 40 martyrs listed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. A Selma Memorial plaque now honors her and two others killed in the protest, and a statue of her now stands in Detroit, honoring her courage.

More on this day


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Take our 2023 reader survey

The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.