Recy Taylor has not been a well-known figure, but Winfrey’s touching on her story and a new documentary are bringing attention to an incident of racial injustice and sexual violence in the Jim Crow South.
Taylor, who died on Dec. 29 at the age of 97, was the victim of a violent rape as a young woman.
In 1944, Taylor was 24 years old and walking home from church in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted and raped by six white men. Some accounts say seven white men were involved.
She was left on the side of the road by her attackers, the Associated Press reported.
The website for the documentary, “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” says many African-American women who were physically abused in the South during that era kept quiet out of fear, but Taylor bravely identified her attackers.
The NAACP assigned as an investigator for the case Rosa Parks, who gained national attention more than a decade later for refusing to give up her seat in the “colored” section of a bus to a white passenger.
The New York Times reported in Taylor’s obituary that two all-white, all-male grand juries would not charge the men accused of raping Taylor, in spite of the fact that one of the men had confessed.
Taylor spoke to the AP in 2010, saying that she believed the men who attacked her were dead by then, but she still wanted an apology, if not from them then from officials.
“It would mean a whole lot to me,” Taylor said, according to the AP. “The people who done this to me… they can’t do no apologizing. Most of them is gone.”
She received an apology from both houses of the Alabama Legislature in 2011. In the joint resolution, it stated that “this deplorable lack of justice remains a source of shame for all Alabamians” and goes on to say that “the failure to act was, and is, morally abhorrent and repugnant, and that we do hereby express profound regret for the role played by the government of the State of Alabama in failing to prosecute the crimes.”
Winfrey in her speech at the Golden Globes highlighted Taylor’s story, put it into the context of the larger national conversation about sexual assault, and connected it to a new group called “Times Up,” which aims to end sexual violence and harassment.
“She [Taylor] lived as we all have lived too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their ….