City officials unveil new civil rights memorial monument honoring Viola Liuzzo at park bearing her name
- Detroiter Liuzzo was murdered in Alabama, where she had been helping to register Black voters
- Monument also honors Liuzzo’s best friend, Sarah Evans, who helped raise Viola’s children after her murder
- New memorial monument installed in collaboration with the Viola Liuzzo Park Association
Today, The Viola Liuzzo Park Association celebrated the unveiling of its newest civil rights memorial monument with Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison, City Officials, and community supporters. The memorial was installed at Viola Liuzzo Playground, a Greenfield neighborhood park on Detroit's West side, to honor those who inspired Dr. Viola Liuzzo to journey from Detroit to Selma in 1965, including Mrs. Sarah Evans.
"The Viola Liuzzo Park Association has been hard at work in partnership with the City of Detroit and others for the past nine years restoring the Viola Liuzzo Playground," said Artis Johnson, President of VLPA. "With the installation of this Civil Rights Memorial Monument, we continue to honor the sacrifice of Dr. Viola Liuzzo and her friendship with Mrs. Sarah Evans, as well as Detroiters who answered Dr. King's call to come to Selma in 1965."
"The General Services Department is proud to have collaborated with VLPA to help bring this history to life," said Crystal Perkins, City of Detroit General Services Department Director. "We are grateful that Dr. Viola Liuzzo stood up for the fight. This beautiful monument now stands as a reminder that the fight for justice is everyone's fight. The relationship shared between Dr. Liuzzo and Mrs. Evans is a perfect example of sisterly love."
In collaboration with the City of Detroit, the Viola Liuzzo Park Association fundraised $22,000 to create a 7-foot, granite, laser etched, two-sided monument, which includes Michiganders who responded to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's call to come to Selma, as well as those who lost their lives advocating for voting rights and those who continue the fight. The monument reads "Sisters in Life-Sisters in Struggle" on one side with photos of Dr. Viola Liuzzo and Mrs. Sarah Evans. On another side, it reads "It's Everybody's Fight" with a LIFE magazine cover from the headlines of the civil rights marches.
"On behalf of Mayor Duggan and myself, It's an honor to be a part of, recognize and for us to have an unveiling of the monument honoring Dr. Viola Luizzo and Mrs. Sarah Evans," said Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison. "Their friendship should remind us all that standing by while acts of hatred and injustice are committed makes one complicit in those injustices. It is the actions that we take to stop inequality that make us a part of that vital change. To quote what Dr. Liuzzo said to her husband before leaving for Selma, “It’s everybody’s fight".”
"We gather in District 2 to unveil the Civil Rights Memorial Monument at the Viola Liuzzo Playground," said Council Member Angela Calloway, District 2. Dr. Viola Liuzzo's unwavering dedication to social justice and equality deeply resonates with the people of Detroit. We come together to honor her legacy, which serves as a reminder that everyday people can inspire significant changes. Let this monument symbolize our collective commitment to preserving her memory and advancing her cause. We strive to ensure that her profound sacrifice is not forgotten and that future generations are enlightened by her story."
About Viola Liuzzo and Mrs. Sarah Evans:
Despite coming from very different backgrounds, Mrs. Evans and Viola Liuzzo were best friends.
In 1965, Viola Liuzzo decided to answer Dr. King's call for help in Alabama, and she drove from Detroit, MI, to Selma, AL, to march for the Civil Rights movement and help Black people register to vote after what is known as the infamous "Bloody Sunday." Before she left, she asked Sarah Evan if she could help watch the kids while she was away. Unfortunately, while driving a Black activist from Montgomery to Selma, Liuzzo was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan before making it home and has been recorded as the only known white female killed during the civil rights movement.
Sarah Evans, without hesitation, helped raise the Liuzzo children and her children and became known as Grandma Sarah. Evans was pivotal in ensuring her best friend's legacy continued. Emphasizing that although they came from different backgrounds in wealth and race, kindness, friendship and sisterly love are vital.
Although Liuzzo's murder was tragic for both the Liuzzo and Evans Families; it was not in vain, as it eventually led President Johnson to investigate the Ku Klux Klan, which ultimately helped encourage legislators to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The newest monument at the Viola Liuzzo Playground is a testament to their legacy of respecting and loving one another as human beings. While also honoring those who fought for the right to vote and those who continue to fight for what's right.
"We are so happy that our mom's and Grandma Sarah's names are on the monument," said Anthony Liuzzo. "It means a lot to the family.'
"We are honored and humbled that our grandmother and great-grandmother will be forever remembered not only in history but also in the city of Detroit," said Tyrone Green, Sr., the Grandson and Tyrone Green Jr., the Great Grandson of Sarah Evans. "She has left a legacy that her family can be proud of, and we will do everything we can to continue that legacy. We love you!”
About the Viola Liuzzo Park Association:
The VLPA was formed in 2015 after hearing an NPR interview with one of Dr. Liuzzo's daughters, Sally Liuzzo. Its intention was to rebuild the Viola Liuzzo Playground to honor the courage and spirit of Dr. Viola Liuzzo, as well as bring awareness of her sacrifice and her family's sacrifice. The VLPA includes members diverse in age, race, gender, and demographics and represents residents from the park neighborhood, members of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, and individuals from across Michigan. The Liuzzo family are honorary members. We are passionate about Detroit, voting rights and civil rights, and honoring the legacy of Dr. Liuzzo.