Recy Taylor, Rape Survivor and Civil Rights Activist, Dies Days Before 98th Birthday

In Black History, Culture by Melody Gulliver

Recy Taylor, daughter of Alabama sharecroppers, passed away ten days before her 98th birthday in her Abbeville nursing home. Taylor had become a prominent civil and women’s rights activist after surviving a traumatic rape during the Jim Crow era.

In 1944, 24-year old Recy Taylor was brutally raped by six white men while walking home from church in Alabama. With the aid of the N.A.A.C.P, Taylor fought to have the men prosecuted for their crime. Despite Taylor’s efforts and the confession of one assailant, the attackers were not indicted.

The injustice against Recy Taylor mobilized individuals to protest and continue seeking justice for Taylor and other victims of sexually violent crimes.

In 2010, historian Danielle L. McGuire prompted further discussion of the crime in her 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.” In the novel McGuire underlines the complicated and unspoken ways Black women resisted sexual violence during the Civil Rights Movement.

“It seemed as if every front page of every black newspaper between 1940 and 1950 featured the same story: a black woman was walking home from school, work or church when a group of white men abducted her at gunpoint, took her outside of town, and brutally assaulted her,” stated McGuire in a discussion with The Huffington Post.

Most recently, Oprah Winfrey urged Golden Globe viewers to learn Recy Taylor’s name and story during her powerful Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech.

“[Taylor] lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men,” said Winfrey, “and for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

Taylor transformed her pain into the revolutionary movement that we now call “#metoo.” As the movement develops and pervades modern dialogue, we must not forget how it started.

It began in Abbeville, Alabama after a humble, underprivileged Black woman refused to stay silent. In fighting for her own justice, Taylor demanded that the experiences, pain, and sexual trauma endured everyday by women of color be recognized and validated.

Thank you, Recy Taylor, for your bravery.

Thank you for your fight.