The Rape of Recy Taylor

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  • The year: 1944. The place: deep south of Alabama. The law: Jim Crow. Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old African-American wife and mother is brutally gang-raped by six white men. Verdict: You already know.

Although, Rosa Parks is widely associated with the Montgomery bus boycotts; many (like myself) are unaware of the intimate role she played in this high-stakes rape case. Recy’s story is being told in the 2017 film, “THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR”, directed and produced by Nancy Buirski (best known for “LOVING” in 2012). The movie was inspired by the non-fiction book: “AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET | Black Women, Rape and Resistance — a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle L. McGuire.

Recy Taylor was a 24-year-old African-American married sharecropper and mother to a baby girl at the time. She and her husband lived in Abbeville, Alabama. On September 3, 1944, while on her way home from church, Recy was abducted at gunpoint by seven local men. They forced her into a car, drove her to a secluded spot in the woods, ordered her to strip, and then six of them took turns raping her. After four or five brutal hours, they released her with a threat to keep her mouth shut.

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Rape in the south back then was as common as wheat in a field. The uncommon response was to report it to authorities. There was never justice in those cases and worse off they’d kill you for even accusing a white person of doing anything wrong. It was a lose-lose situation. However, Recy bravely identified her rapists and took it to court with the help of the NAACP.  Recy’s rapists were eventually tried before an all-white jury. During the “trial”, the accused and police officials testified that she was a prostitute who’d willingly participated in her own assault. Others involved in the case referred to the gang-rape as some wild consensual night that got out of hand. Hear it direct from Recy in this NPR interview in 2011.

The new 2017 film delves into the lives of two strong black women: Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks. Parks, like so many black women, dealt with sexual assault and served as the NAACP’s official rape investigator, fighting for justice in Recy Taylor’s case. This story is mind-blowing to me, especially because I never knew about her harrowing tale or Parks involvement until now.

It is extraordinarily heartbreaking to think of our government and the centuries it has taken to acknowledge humanity vs. ethnicity. There was no conviction and those men were never prosecuted.

I hope films and books like these will continue to remind our young women to stand with integrity and be a positive force in this world. Whether there is justice or not, speak up and say something.

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Recy Taylor in 2010 at her Florida home (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Recy Taylor is 97-years-old and alive as of this post**. She has visited the White House, lived to see an African-American President and First Lady and received an official apology from the State of Alabama. The men who raped her were never convicted.

**[Editor update: Recy Taylor passed away on December 28, 2017. Prayers and condolences to her family and friends. She will forever be in our hearts as the embodiment of strength, courage and determination.]**

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