viola liuzzo memorial
viola liuzzo was a detroit michigan house wife that was horrified by the images of the aborted march 7 th selma to montgomery civil rights march. she told her husband anthony liuzzo, a teamsters official, that "this was everybody's fight" and that she was driving to selma. the evening after the third march to montgomery liuzzo and leroy moton drove groups of protesters back to selma from montgomery. after two trips to selma liuzzo and moton were returning to montgomery when they were spotted by car with four klansmen. liuzzo and moton were chased 20 miles from selma into lowndes county. the car with the kansmen pulled along side liuzzo's car and shot her twice in the head. moton survived the attack and later ran for help from liuzzo's wreaked car. because there was an FBI informant in the klan car the klansmen were quickly arrested. one klansman died of a heart attack before his trial and two other klansmen were convicted and given short prison sentences. the liuzzo murder contributed to the quick passage of the 1965 voting rights act.
selma is located in central alabama 54 miles west of montgomery. selma is the county seat of dallas county alabama. the spanish explorer hernando desoto visited the area in 1540. the first settlement in selma was established in 1732 and was called ecor bienville. the present day town of selma was incorporated in 1820. during the civil war selma was an important maunfacturing center for the confederacy. selma was the site of the battle of selma in 1865. in modern times selma is best known for the selma-montgomery civil rights march in 1965. for those interested in american history selma has much to offer. in and near the town of selma are native american sites, civil war battle fields, and 1960's civil rights sites and museums. selma is a very worth while side trip for those visiting montgomery.
during the civil war selma was an important manufacturing center for the confederacy. selma produced war material and had a ship building facility on the alabama river. the confederate iron clad war ships, "the tennesse", "huntsville", and "tuscaloosa" were built in selma. the importance of selma to the confederacy was well known in the north and general william t. sherman considered selma a prime target for attack in alabama. sherman personally tried to attack selma from his base in meridian mississippi but was repulsed by the forces of general nathan bedford forrest. general benjamin grierson was ordered to take selma from his base in memphis tennessee. grierson's forces were also repulsed by the confederates. general forrest and general richard taylor built fortifications around selma in preparation for another union attack. on march 30 th 1865 forces under the command of union general james wilson began the seige of selma. for two days there was a fierce battle in the streets of selma and general forrest was almost killed by a sabre-wielding union captain. the confederate defenders of selma were greatly out numbered by wilson's troops and forrest and taylor were forced to retreat from the town. general wilson followed sherman's policy of total destruction of the south and burned the town's churches and private residences. this important union victory paved the way for general wilson's army to continue on to montgomery and columbus georgia.
in modern times selma is best known for the selma-montgomery civil rights march of 1965 and the murder of viola liuzzo. after the 1964 birmingham protests and the bombing of the 16 th street baptist church the civil rights movement in the south had gained momentum and more wide spread national support. president john f. kennedy had introduced a civil rights act for african-americans in 1963 and it was signed into law by president lyndon johnson in 1964. the civil rights act invalidated the "jim crow" laws in the south and outlawed racial segration in schools, public places, and employment. however many states in the south resisted these changes and the civil rights movement continued on through the 1960's. in febuary 1965 jimmie lee jackson was shot and killed by a alabama state trooper during a night time civil rights demonstration in nearby marion alabama. selma resident amelia boynton organized a march to montgomery to confront governor george wallace about the shooting of jackson and about voting rights issues. civil rights activists, martin luther king, james bevel, hosea williams and john lewis supported the march and a date was set for march 7 th 1965. alabama governor george wallace denounced the march as a threat to public safey and authorized the dallas county sheriff's department and the alabama state police to stop it. in what is known as "bloody sunday" the police beat the marchers wth billy clubs and bull whips and sprayed the protesters with tear gas. the marchers were driven back across the edmund pettus bridge back into selma. due to a federal court order by district court judge frank johnson the protesters were allowed to march to montgomery on march 21 st. 1965.