Friday, March 1, 2013

This Teamster heroine died for the Voting Rights Act

The attack on the Voting Rights Act now before the U.S. Supreme Court should be especially offensive to Teamsters. One of our own died for the cause of equal voting rights. The 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo, wife of a Teamster business agent,  sparked passage of the historic civil rights legislation.

CNN reminded us yesterday of Violet's sacrifice:
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. 
Viola Liuzzo was murdered in this car on an isolated Alabama highway while she participated in a voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama. 
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.
The Teamsters have long honored Viola's memory, from the day James R. Hoffa attended her funeal on March 30, 1965 in Detroit to the present. An online tribute to Viola at tells us:
Viola Liuzzo and her husband Anthony “Jim” Liuzzo, who retired after more than 16 years as a business agent of Teamsters Local 247, had always been a family with a purpose. They believed in racial equality, helping fellow union members in their struggle for economic justice or dignity on the job and fighting discrimination in all its form as they had done all their life. 
Viola Liuzzo was an active member of her community and was a member of DRIVE— the Teamsters political and legislative arm. She could often be found attending various political meetings, away at a meeting of Congress on Racial Equality or other meetings that attract those who have a deep concern for their fellow men. 
It came as no surprise to Anthony Liuzzo when his wife and mother of his five children called from the campus of Wayne State University, where she attended classes for sociology, to tell him she had to go to Selma, Alabama to assist the civil rights marchers.
You can read more about her here.