The SPLC today honored Heather Heyer – killed while protesting white supremacism in Charlottesville – by adding her name and image to the Wall of Tolerance inside the Civil Rights Memorial Center.
“Like the civil rights martyrs whose names are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial, Heather took a stand against hate and bigotry and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the SPLC, which built and maintains the memorial.
“By speaking out for justice and equality, she embodied the spirit of the civil rights movement, and the life she led deserves to be recognized along with the names of other martyrs of the movement.”
Heyer, 32, was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a crowd of counterdemonstrators who were protesting a rally of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists.
The tribute features a larger-than-life, black-and-white digital portrait of Heyer that stretches from the bottom of the 20-by-40 foot Wall of Tolerance up to the ceiling. The digital wall displays the names, cascading down continuously from top to bottom, of more than 500,000 people who have pledged to take a stand against injustice.
Also on the wall is a photo of Heyer’s mother and the following quote: “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.”
Heyer will later be honored with a memorial plaque in an area of the memorial center dedicated to contemporary civil rights martyrs. The area offers the stories of recent victims of hate as a reminder that intolerance and injustice persist in today’s society.
The Civil Rights Memorial Center is the interpretive center that accompanies the Civil Rights Memorial, which honors 40 men, women and children killed during the movement between 1954 and 1968. Designed by Maya Lin and dedicated in 1989, it’s located outside the SPLC’s main office in Montgomery, Alabama.
“Heather was a young white woman who was deeply involved in taking a stand against injustice, when she didn’t have to,” Brooks said. “Her story reminds me of Viola Liuzzo, who left her home in Detroit to help with the Selma-to-Montgomery March, only to be killed by white supremacists.”
Liuzzo, whose name is inscribed in the black granite of the Civil Rights Memorial, traveled to Alabama in March 1965 to help with the march after seeing television reports of the attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She was ferrying marchers between Selma and Montgomery when she was shot and killed by Klansmen in a passing car.
“Heather’s story demonstrates how much has changed since the civil rights movement and how much hasn’t changed,” Brooks said. “Viola Liuzzo stood up against white supremacism in 1965. Heather did 52 years later.”