Home of the Brave (Descendants Talk)
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Partnering with the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, we present our joint "Descendants Talk Mini-Festival."
Viola Liuzzo was a 39-year-old Detroit teamster's wife and mother of five, who joined thousands of people converging in Selma, Alabama for the march on Montgomery, led by Martin Luther King in 1965. But shortly after the historic Voting Rights March had ended, she was shot in the head and killed by a car full of Klansmen, while driving on a deserted highway.
Liuzzo's death came at a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, when President Johnson had been fighting an uphill battle to push the Voting Rights Act through Congress. Her murder is attributed by historians of the era as providing the final piece of leverage that won Johnson approval of the Act in Congress, which forever changed our political landscape.
Why do we not know the story of Viola Luizzo, while nearly everyone has heard of Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney -- the three rights workers killed the year before in Mississippi? The reasons are complex, and won't be found in history books. Immediately following her murder, Liuzzo became the target of a smear campaign, mounted by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, as a means of diverting attention from the fact that a key FBI informant was in the car with Liuzzo's killers. This discrediting of her name -- mostly based on her gender and wholly unfounded -- succeeded in erasing Viola Liuzzo from our cultural memory. After delving through thousands of pages of government documents and filming interviews with leaders in the fields of politics, history and forensics psychology, the filmmakers shed a new light on this complicated, buried story.
Parallel to the Civil Rights struggle for which Viola lost her life is the present-day journey of her five children. Mary, the middle daughter, decides to retrace her mother's road trip from Detroit to Selma with the filmmakers. In the mid-60s she was an angry kid in the midst of a personal rebellion with her mother. The trauma of her sudden death caused her to bury any memories of her mother. Instead, she found herself reliving only the details of her gruesome death and its tumultuous aftermath. Now as an adult, she's ready to bring her back into consciousness. What she finds in Selma is both surprising and profoundly healing.
Her brothers Tony and Tommy, who as boys felt the weight of it all on their shoulders, were eventually hit the hardest. Theirs is a path routed in turmoil, resulting largely from repeated failed attempts to vindicate their mother and seek justice their family. Their lives have been torn apart by what they see as a betrayal of their government, and after decades of fighting, they've each resigned themselves to their own form of refuge, which disconnects them from their sisters and the rest of the world.
Home of the Brave links the personal and the political, the past and present and has a disturbing resonance to our world today.
The Shelter-in-Place Virtual Film Series
The Shelter-in-Place Virtual Film Series is a joint project of Arkansas PBS (ArPBS), Just Communities of Arkansas (JCA), Arkansas Cinema Society (ACS), Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective (WFYMALC), Arkansas Minority Film & Arts Association (AMFAA), and Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement (APJMM).
- Kwami Abdul-Bey
co-convenor of the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement
The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.