Movie Rights Acquired to Civil Rights Biography by Pulitzer Nominee and Union Alum

Published on
March 29, 2021
photo of Mary Stanton
Mary Stanton '73

Entertainment Studios has picked up the worldwide media rights to the critically-acclaimed historic biography, From Selma to Sorrow: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo written by Mary Stanton, a 1973 graduate of Union College.

“Over the years we have had so many bites and I have been interviewed so many times that when Entertainment called me I didn’t have any hope,” said Stanton.

Conversations continued for about a year and just this month, Stanton received news of the acquisition.

“I am very happy about it and very concerned about the whole issue of voting rights moving backward,” she adds. 

Stanton’s From Selma to Sorrow is the first full-length biography which tells the story of wife, mother, college student and Civil Rights activist Viola Liuzzo; the only white woman honored at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. While a part-time student at Wayne State University, Liuzzo became involved in civil rights protests and decided to participate in a voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. On March 25, 1965, following the march in Selma; Klansmen followed Liuzzo in her car along Highway 80 for twenty miles before pulling alongside and firing shots, killing her instantly. Her passenger, a young black man named Leroy Moton, survived because he pretended to be dead when Klansmen approached the car.  A massive FBI cover up of the crime, as well as defamation of Liuzzo, followed.

“I had always vaguely remembered the story of this woman and I realized she was very similar to the people I knew; she was white, she came from a blue-collar background, she was married with five kids, she could have lived on my block,” said Stanton. 

In From Selma to Sorrow, Stanton searches for the truth about Liuzzo's life and death, using extensive interviews, public records, and FBI case files to tell a startling story of murder, betrayal, and passion.

According to Deadline, the global media rights for From Selma to Sorrow were acquired by Carolyn Folks, senior executive and Executive Producer of Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios film and television content. Folks will serve with Allen Media Group Founder/Chairman/CEO Byron Allen as both Producer and Executive Producer of the motion picture. 

“I wrote the book from my perspective, but the script writer has written from the perspective of Liuzzo’s best friend which I believe is brilliant because she is the pivotal character who knew everyone involved.”

Stanton, who now resides in Pennsylvania, wrote From Selma to Sorrow in 1998 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1999. When she last visited our campus in 2015, she urged Union students to be more like Viola Liuzzo and to “focus on justice and ignite young hearts,” words she still stands by in 2021. 

“We are always going to have injustice with us, but I never thought such basic rights would start rolling back so I was really glad when a company picked up this option,” said Stanton. “People who aren’t aware of the history or too young to experience or study it, may get a glimpse of what 1965 was like and the hope that came with it.”  

Filming is expected to begin this fall. Stanton says the producers have already invited her to set and she looks forward to seeing her dream come true after all these years. 

“Mary’s story is just another example of how a Union College education can open doors and make an impact on the world. She’s living the college’s aspiration for all students – to live the values defined in CIRCLES. We are very proud of her for this accomplishment, and we look forward to celebrating her success with her in the future,” said Brian Strunk, Vice President of Advancement and Communications. 

From Selma to Sorrow: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo can be purchased on Amazon.

Other works from Stanton include Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust; Journey Toward Justice: Juliette Hampton and the Montgomery Bus Boycott; and The Hand of Esau.