During Oprah‘s celebrated speech at the Golden Globes, she mentioned the story of Recy Taylor in reference to the #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp coalition.
“Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday,” she said. “She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men.”
While Oprah did a good job of summarizing her story in the time she had to make the speech, here are a few more things you should know about the legacy of Recy Taylor.
1 She was a victim of violent rape.
Recy Taylor was 24 years old on September 3, 1944, when she was abducted and raped by six white men while walking home from church in Abbeville, Ala.
Taylor was walking with a friend and her friend’s son when a car stopped and seven white men forced Taylor at gunpoint to get in the car. They blindfolded her, drove her to a grove on the side of the road, and six of the men raped her. They then drove her away and dumped her out of her car, forcing her to find her way home.
2 Rosa Parks was assigned to her case.
The NAACP sent Rosa Parks to investigate the case, which led to many African Americans around the country demanding that the men be prosecuted. The deputy sheriff was displeased with Parks’ presence in Abbeville, and threatened to lock her up if she didn’t leave.
3 The case never went to trial.
Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men. Four of the seven men admitted to having sex with Taylor, but they insisted she participated willingly and was paid to do so. Only one of the men, Willie Joe Culpepper, backed up Taylor’s story.
4 She later received an apology from both houses of Alabama legislature.
Taylor’s case regained more attention after the publication of historian Danielle L. McGuire’s 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. The publication of the book prompted an official apology from the Alabama legislature on Mother’s Day 2011. The legislative body called the failure to prosecute her attackers “morally abhorrent and repugnant.” The apology was delivered at Abbeville Memorial Church of God in Christ, the same church she worshipped in on the night of the crime.
5 There’s a documentary about the crime.
The Rape of Recy Taylor was released in December 2017. It was directed by Nancy Buirski, the same woman behind the film Loving. The film detailed the case and interviewed townspeople and Taylor herself.
6 She died just days ago.
Taylor passed away in Abbeville on December 29, three weeks after the release of the documentary. She was 97 years old.
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