Viola Liuzzo

Viola Liuzzo

By the fifth day of the march, the ranks of the 3,200 original protesters have swelled to almost 20,000, including such celebrities as Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Lena Horne and Joan Baez, who entertain the marchers in the evenings.18 The marchers stop at the white domed and columned Alabama state Capitol, with its state and Confederate (but no American) flags flying above, and where Jefferson Davis had been sworn in as president of the Confederacy in 1861. Inside, from an office above, Gov. George Wallace watches the unprecedented spectacle, “peeking out through the drawn blinds.” King delivers what turns out to be his final nationally televised speech: “They told us we wouldn’t get here. And there were those who said we would get here only over their dead bodies. …But all the world today knows that we are here. And we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama, saying, “ ‘We ain’t going to let nobody turn us around!’ ”19

On the last night of the march, Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five from Detroit who had come to Alabama to protest, is shot while helping shuttle marchers between Selma and Montgomery. She is ambushed by a carload of Ku Klux Klansmen upset to see a white woman and a black man in a car together. She dies instantly, her car rolling into a ditch. Her passenger, covered in her blood, survives. One of the passengers in the Klansmen’s car turns out to be a paid FBI informant.20

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