Tag Archives: Black History

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Viola Fauver Gregg

Viola Fauver Gregg was born on  April 11, 1925 in California, PA. Her family was poor and often moved to find work.

 

 While living in Detroit, she witnessed the cruelty that its black citizens were subjected to and became sympathetic.  In 1964 she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Color People.
 By then she had married Anthony Liuzzo and they had three children.
 Watching the horrors of the March to Montgomery’s first attempt, Liuzzo decided to go to Selma and participate.
KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Activist murdered

She joined parts of the march to Montgomery and on March 25, 1965 listened to Dr Martin Luther King,  Jr’s famous “How Long Will It Take” speech.
 
 

It would be the last speech she heard.

Using her car, Viola Liuzzo and  Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old black man who had  also marched and assisted with the March to Montgomery,  were helping to  shuttle people from Montgomery back to Selma.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

After dropping passengers in Selma, she and Moton headed back to Montgomery. On the way another car  pulled alongside and a passenger in that car shot directly at Liuzzo, hitting her twice in the head, and killing her instantly. Moton was uninjured.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Arrests immediate

Within 24 hours President Lyndon Johnson appeared on national TV  to announce the arrest of Collie Wilkins (21), William Eaton (41) and Eugene Thomas (41) and  Gary Rowe (34). (text of announcement)

 

Johnson stated, “Mrs. Liuzzo went to Alabama to serve the struggle for justice. She was murdered by the enemies of justice, who for decades have used the rope and the gun and the tar and feathers to terrorize their neighbors.” 

March 27, 1965 : a group of about 200 protesters, black and white, led by the Rev. James Orange of the SCLC marched to the Dallas County courthouse in Selma. The Rev. James Bevel told them, “[Viola Liuzzo] gave her life that freedom might be saved throughout this land.” 

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Funeral services

March 29, 1965 : the NAACP sponsored a memorial service for Viola Liuzzo at the People’s Community Church in Detroit. Fifteen hundred people attended, among them, Rosa Parks.

March 30, 1965: funeral services were held for Viola Liuzzo. Her funeral was held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic church in Detroit, with many prominent members of both the civil rights movement and government there to pay their respects. Included in this group were Martin Luther King, Jr.; NAACP executive director Roy Wilkins; Congress on Racial Equality national leader James Farmer; Michigan lieutenant governor William G. Milliken; Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa; and United Auto Workers president Walter Reuther. At San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral, Martin Luther King said of Liuzzo, “If physical death is the price some must pay to save us and our white brothers from eternal death of the spirit, then no sacrifice could be more redemptive.

On April 1, a cross was burned in front of four Detroit homes, including the Liuzzo residence. (History Engine article)

April 3, 1965 : the mother of Collie Leory Wilkins told President Johnson that he has made it impossible for her son to have a fair trial.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Indictments and trials

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo
From Left to Right; Collie Leroy Wilkins Jr., Eugene Thomas, and William Orville Eaton.

April 6, 1965 : a grand jury indicted Collie Wilkins, William Eaton, Eugene Thomas, and Gary Rowe.

April 15, 1965 : all charges against Gary Rowe were dropped, and he was identified as a paid undercover FBI informant who would testify for the prosecution. [It will later be revealed that Rowe had participated in the beatings of Freedom Riders in Birmingham in 1961 and was suspected of involvement in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.]

May 3, 1965 : the Wilkins trial began. 

May 6, 1965 : during his final defense argumentsWilkens’s lawyer, Matt Murphy, made blatantly racist comments, including calling Liuzzo a “white nigger,” in order to sway the jury. The tactic was successful enough to result in a mistrial the following day (10-2 in favor of conviction)

May 10, 1965 : Collie Wilkins, William Eaton, and Eugene Thomas participated in a Ku Klux Klan parade. Collie Wikkins, free on bond after the mistrial, carried a Confederate flag.  After the parade, the Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America, Robert Shelton, asked the three men to stand. They received a standing ovation.

August 20, 1965 :  Matt Murphy, the defendants’ lawyer in the Viola Liuzzo murder, died in an automobile accident after he fell asleep while driving and crashed into a gas tank truck. Segregationist and former mayor of Birmingham, Art Hanes, agree\ds to represent three accused killers.

October 19, 1965 : State Attorney General, Richmond M Flowers, interrupted the second Liuzzo trial and asked the Alabama Supreme Court to purge some jurists, a number of whom stated during jury selection that they believed white civil rights workers to be inferior to other whites. The request was denied. 

October 20, 1965 : Roy Reed in the NY Times reported that, ”an all-white jury dominated by self-proclaimed white supremacists was chosen…for the retrial of Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr, a Ku Klux Klansman charged with the murder of Viola Liuzzo.” 

October 22, 1965 : the jury took less than two hours to acquit Collie Wilkins in Liuzzo’s slaying.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Federal trial

November 30, 1965 : Collie Wilkins (already acquitted in State Court), Eugene Thomas, and William Eaton faced trial on Federal charges that grew out of the killing of a Viola Liuzzo. They were charged with conspiracy under the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, a Reconstruction civil rights statute. The charges did not specifically refer to Liuzzo’s murder.

December 3, 1965 : an all-white jury found Collie Wilkins, Eugene Thomas, and William Eaton guilty. The three were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

January 15, 1966 : the Birmingham News newspaper published an ad offering Viola Liuzzo’s bullet-ridden car for sale. Asking $3,500, the ad read, “Do you need a crowd-getter? I have a 1963 Oldsmobile two-door in which Mrs. Viola Liuzzo was killed. Bullet holes and everything intact. Ideal to bring in crowds.”

April 27, 1967 : the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the conspiracy convictions of  Thomas and Wilkins, Jr. William O Eaton, the third person, had died.

May 17, 1982 : the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Alabama could prosecute Gary Rowe, the FBI informer, in the 1965 slaying of Viola Luizzo. The ruling affirmed an order by a lower court.

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo
Gary Rowe

October 30, 1982 : a newly released report said the FBI  covered up the violent activities of their informant, Gary Thomas Rowe Jr., but his lawyer said the Government knew it was not getting ”a Sunday school teacher” when it asked Mr. Rowe to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. (NYT article)

Rowe, who was a Klan informant from 1959 to 1965, was charged with murder in the 1965 killing of Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights worker, but a federal appeals court barred him from being brought to trial because of an earlier agreement giving him immunity.

The 1979 report was released publicly for the first time because the Justice Department lost a Freedom of Information suit filed by Playboy magazine. In the report department investigators said agents protected Mr. Rowe because the informant ”was simply too valuable to abandon.’

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo


KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Family must pay

April 2, 1983 : final arguments in the $2 million negligence suit against the FBI were made in Federal court by lawyers for the children of Viola Liuzzo, whose murder they attributed to a paid F.B.I. informer, Gary Rowe.

Viola Liuzzo’s children  not only lost their suit against the Federal Government  but were ordered to pay court costs of $79,800, in addition to legal fees that amounted to more than $60,000. They appealed the ruling which was reduced to a smaller amount.

The Liuzzo family’s court costs alone were estimated at $60,000, according to Jeffrey Long, one of their lawyers. Last week, Judge Joiner dismissed the family’s $2 million lawsuit against the Federal Government. The family maintained Gary Rowe, an informer for the FBI, either shot at Mrs. Liuzzo or could have prevented the shooting.

February 7, 1997 : from the NYT, “Last week, a Confederate battle flag was spray-painted on a monument in Hayneville, Ala., to Viola Liuzzo.”

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo

Legacy

April 10, 2015: Wayne State University posthumously awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree to Viola Liuzzo.  Liuzzo’s family traveled from around the country to attend the ceremony and accept the award on her behalf. 

KKK Kills Activist Viola Liuzzo
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Emmett Louis Till

Emmett Louis Till

Emmylou Harris…”My Name Is Emmett Till”
In the mid-20th century, most Americans worried about atomic weapons.

Today the fear of terrorism has replaced our fear of an atomic apocalypse...mostly.

We consider terrorists  foreigners.  Of course there have been example of domestic terrorism and throughout American histroy a whole class of Americans were under the constant fear of domestic terrorists, vigilante injustice, lynching.

Emmett Louis Till Emmett Louis Till

The story of Emmett Till is one of the better known examples of the thousands of black Americans who were mistreated, tortured, and killed by domestic terrorists.

There are many articles and books about Emmett Till and the horrors that surround his final moments. This piece is simply a chronological listing of his final days and the decades of injustice that followed.

Reverend George Lee

Emmett Louis Till

On May 7, 1955 the Reverend George Lee, a grocery owner and NAACP field worker in Belzoni, Mississippi, was shot and killed at point blank range while driving in his car after trying to vote. At his funeral, Lee’s widow ordered his casket be opened to show the effects of shotgun pellets to the face—a rebuttal to the official version that Lee died in a car accident. Shortly before his death Lee had preached, “Pray not for your mom and pop—they’ve gone to heaven. Pray you can make it through this hell.”  (see May 31)

Moses Wright

Emmett Louis Till

In early August 1955 Emmett Till's great uncle Moses Wright had traveled from Mississippi to Chicago to visit family. At the end of his stay, Wright planned to take Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives. Emmett learned of these plans he begged his mother to let him go along. Initially, Mamie Till said no. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska and attempted to lure Till to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi. She gave permission.

Emmett Till

Emmett Louis Till

August 19, 1955: Till’s mother gave Emmett his late father's signet ring, engraved with the initials L.T.  Louis Till had died in 1945 while a private in Europe during World War II. 

August 20, 1955: Mamie Till drove her son to the 63rd Street station in Chicago. They kissed goodbye and Till boarded a southbound train headed for Mississippi. 

August 21, 1965: Till arrived in Money, Mississippi to stay at the home of his great uncle Moses Wright. 

Bryant’s Grocery

Emmett Louis Till

August 24, 1955: Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. Till purchased bubble gum, and some of the kids with him would later report that he either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand of the store's white female clerk—and wife of the owner—Carolyn Bryant. 
Emmitt Till murdered
August 28, 1955: at approximately 2:30 AM Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Emmett Till from Moses Wright's home. They then brutally beat, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan, and shoved his mutilated body into the water. 

Moses Wright reported Till's disappearance to the local authorities. 

August 29, 1955:  authorities arrested J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on kidnapping charges. They are jailed in Greenwood, Mississippi and held without bond. (see Aug 31)

August 31, 1955: Emmett Till's decomposed corpse was pulled from Mississippi's Tallahatchie River. Moses Wright identifies the body from a ring with the initials L.T.

September 1, 1955: Mississippi Governor Hugh White ordered  local officials to "fully prosecute" Milam and Bryant.

Emmett Till’s return to Chicago

Emmett Louis Till

September 2, 1955: in Chicago, Mamie Till arrived at the Illinois Central Terminal to receive Emmett's casket. Family and media surround her. She collapsed when she saw the casket. 

September 3, 1955: as mentioned above, in May the widow of Reverend George Lee had decided to have an open casket for her  husband. 

Mamie Till decided to do the same. "Let the people see what they did to my boy!"

Thousands waited in line to see Emmett's brutally beaten body.

Emmett Louis Till

September 6, 1955: Emmett Till was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. 
Indictment for murder and trial
September 7, 1955: A Tallahatchie County grand jury indicted Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for the murder and kidnapping of Emmett Till. Conviction on either charge could carry the death penalty. They both plead innocent and remain in jail until the start of the trial.

September 19, 1955: the murder trial (only) began in Sumner, Mississippi, the county seat of Tallahatchie County. Jury selection began. Law banned any blacks and all women from serving. The 12-man jury consisted of nine farmers, two carpenters and one insurance agent.

Mamie Till departed from Chicago's Midway Airport to attend the trial. (see Sept 20)

September 20, 1955: Judge Curtis Swango recessed the court to allow more witnesses to be found. It was the first time in Mississippi history that local law enforcement, local NAACP leaders, and black and white reporters had teamed up. They try to locate sharecroppers who saw Milam's truck and overheard Emmett being beaten.

September 21, 1955: Moses Wright accused the two white men in open court, an unthinkable thing to do in that place at that time. While on the witness stand, he stood up and pointed his finger at Milam and Bryant, and accused them of coming to his house and kidnapping Emmett.

September 22, 1955: the defense began presenting its witnesses. Carolyn Bryant testified outside the presence of the jury. Sheriff Strider testified that he thought the body pulled out of the river had been there "from ten to fifteen days," far too long to be that of Till. An embalmer testified that the body was "bloated beyond recognition."
Emmett Louis Till

September 23, 1955: after a 67-minute deliberation, the jury acquitted Milam and Bryant. One juror told a reporter that they wouldn't have taken so long if they hadn't stopped to drink pop. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam stood before photographers, lighted up cigars, and kissed their wives in celebration.
Kidnapping charges dropped
Moses Wright and Willie Reed, another poor black Mississippian who testified, left Mississippi. Once there, Reed collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown. (Reed, see July 18, 2013 below)

September 30, 1955: Milam and Bryant were released on bond. for the pending kidnapping charges.

November 9, 1955: returning to Mississippi one last time, Moses Wright and Willie Reed testified before a LeFlore County grand jury in Greenwood, Mississippi. The grand jury refused to indict Milam or Bryant for kidnapping. The two men go free.
The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi”

Emmett Louis Till

January 24, 1956: an article by William Bradford Huie in Look magazine appears. It is titled, "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi." Protected by double-jeopardy,  Milam and Bryant admit to the murder. 

They detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article.

January 22, 1957: Huie wrote another article for Look magazine, "What's Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?" Huie wrote that "Milam does not regret the killing, though it has brought him nothing but trouble." Blacks have stopped frequenting stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families and put them out of business. Bryant takes up welding for income, and the community ostracized both men .

E. Frederic Morrow

Emmett Louis Till

E. Frederic Morrow moved to the White House on July 10, 1955. He  was an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and as such he became the first African-American to serve in that capacity. His autobiography vividly describes his difficulties in trying to persuade the administration to take a strong stand on civil rights. Morrow, for example, tried unsuccessfully to get President Eisenhower to issue a statement regarding Emmett Till's murder.  

Morrow did, however, finally convince Eisenhower to meet with civil rights leaders in the White House, a meeting that occurred on June 23, 1958. 

Deaths

December 31, 1980: J. W. Milam died in Mississippi of cancer.

September 1, 1994: Roy Bryant Sr., 63, died at the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi of cancer.

January 6, 2003: Mamie Till Mobley died of heart failure, at age 81. Her death came just two weeks before The Murder of Emmett Till was to premiere nationally on PBS.
Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007
October 7, 2008: introduced in 2007, President Bush signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.  It tasked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI with reviewing, investigating and assessing for prosecutive merit more than 100 unsolved civil rights era homicides.

Lil Wayne

February 13, 2013: Airickca Gordon-Taylor, director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation (founded in 2009), requested that Lil Wayne remove Emmett Till’s name from his verse on Future’s “Karate Chop.” Gordon-Taylor calls Wayne’s use of Till’s name “disappointing, dishonorable, and outright disrespectful to our family.”

Guesting on “Karate Chop,” a single by Atlanta rapper Future, Lil Wayne contributed the third verse of the remix, which began:
Pop a lot of pain pills

‘Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels

Beat that p—y up like Emmett Till
February 18, 2013: Epic Records Chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid apologized to the Till family and said that his label was working to remove from circulation a remix of the track "Karate Chop."

Willie Reed dies

July 18, 2013: Willie Reed, who had changed his name to Willie Louis after the murder trial of Emmett Till and had moved to Chicago, died. Louis, one of the last living witnesses for the prosecution in the Till case, died in Oak Lawn, Ill., a Chicago suburb. He was 76.
Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016
December 16, 2016: President Obama signed the Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016. The Act allowed the Department of Justice and the FBI to reopen unsolved civil rights crimes.committed before 1980. The legislation is an expansion of a previous bill of a similar name signed into law in 2008.

Carolyn Bryant Donham admits lying

22,433 days days later

January 27, 2017: in a Vanity Fair magazine article, Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson reported that Carolyn Bryant Donham (the woman who accused Till of inappropriate behavior) told him that the story she and others told about Emmett Till were false. Tyson wrote that Donham said of her long-ago allegations—that Emmett grabbed her and was menacing and sexually crude toward her--“that part is not true.” Tyson also wrote a book, The Blood of Emmett Till, about the murder.

Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till, 

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SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

June 16, 1944

When deep racial hatred blinds a community, there will be miscarriages of justice.  In the United States, such false accusations have happened regularly with black people young and old.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

George Junius Stinney , Jr

The story of George Junius Stinney , Jr is another tragic example of that ignorant hatred.

14-year-old  George Stinney, Jr. lived in Alcolu,  South Carolina with his father, George Stinney, Sr., mother Aime, brothers Charles, 12, and John, 17, and sisters Katherine, 10, and Aime, 7. George Sr. worked at the town’s sawmill. The family lived in company housing.

March 23, 1944

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

On the afternoon of March 23, 1944, Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, failed to return home. The next morning searchers, George Stinney, Sr among them, discovered the girls’ bodies lying in a water-filled ditch. Both girls’ skulls were crushed and one of the girl’s bicycles lay on top of their bodies.

After a short investigation, police took George Stinney, Jr, and his brother John into custody. They released John, but a few hours later, Stinney confessed to murdering the girls.

The sawmill fired Stinney, Sr and the family had to move and rarely saw George, Jr again because his incarceration was 50 miles away.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

April 24, 1944

A mere 10 days later, the State tried Stinney for the  girls’ murders. Records indicate 1,000 people crammed the courthouse. Blacks were not allowed inside.

The jury was all-white and the trial concluded that same day with Judge P.H. Stoll presiding. The court had appointed Charles Plowden as Stinney’s counsel. Plowden was a tax commissioner campaigning for a Statehouse seat.

Solicitor Frank McLeod represented the State. He presented evidence from law enforcement that Spinney confessed to the crime. While law enforcement testified that a confession occurred, no written confession exists in the record today. Nothing remains from documentary evidence indicating whether the court admitted a murder weapon, bloody clothes or other demonstrative evidence.

Plowden called no witnesses, did not cross examine, and never filed an appeal. No one challenged the sheriff’s recollection of the confession.

The jury deliberated 10 minutes and found Stinney guilty.

The same day Judge P.H. Stoll sentenced Stinney to death by electrocution.

The entire process had lasted two-hours.

No appeals were filed and no stays of execution requested.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

Last minute protest

South Carolina Electrocutes George Stinney Jr  

The day before the scheduled execution, the NAACP protested to Governor Olin D Johnston. The execution proceeded.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

South Carolina Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

On June 16, 1944, Stinney became the youngest person to die in the electric chair and the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th century. At 95 pounds, the straps don’t fit and an electrode was too big for his leg. His feet could not touch the floor.

According to writer Joy James, as the first 2,400-volt surge of electricity hit Stinney, the mask covering his face slipped off, “revealing his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth.”

His family buried his burned body in an unmarked grave hoping the anonymity would allow him to rest in peace.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

70 years, 5 months, 29 days later

On December 17, 2014 South Carolina Circuit Judge Carmen T. Mullen vacated Stinney’s murder conviction. Judge Mullen called it a “great and fundamental injustice,.”

Mullen did not rule that the conviction of Mr. Stinney for the murder of two white girls was wrong on the merits. She did find, however, that the prosecution had failed in numerous ways to safeguard Swinney’s constitutional rights from the time police took him into custody until his death by electrocution.

The all-white jury could not be considered a jury of the teenager’s peers, Judge Mullen ruled, and Stinney’s court-appointed attorney did “little to nothing” to defend him. Stinney’s  confession was most likely coerced and unreliable, Mullen added, “due to the power differential between his position as a 14-year-old black male apprehended and questioned by white, uniformed law enforcement in a small, segregated mill town in South Carolina.” [full NYT article]

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

Continued blindness

Frankie Bailey Dyches, the niece of one of the victims, disagreed.  “I believe that he confessed,” said Dyches, who was born after the 1944 killings. “He was tried, found guilty by the laws of 1944, which are completely different now — it can’t be compared — and I think that it needs to be left as is.”

The Conservative Headlines site has stated, “Make no mistake: George Stinney Jr was 100% guilty. The white Marxists, the media, and black power groups are perfectly comfortable pretending like he is innocent to advance their political agenda. They are completely comfortable spitting on the graves of two little dead girls. To advance the cause of the far-left, murderous thugs are converted into saints and innocent victims into criminals.”

In 2014, the A.N.D. erected a marked grave.

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr

SC Electrocutes George Stinney Jr
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