Alabama may finally acknowledge Jim Crow era rape of Recy Taylor

Almost 67 years ago during the Jim Crow era,  Recy Taylor was raped and held at gunpoint by seven white men in Abbeville, Alabama on September 3 in 1944.  Unfortunately, her rape was one of many cases where a black woman never got justice.  Because the multiple men who raped her were white men from priveleged families, they never went to jail or went to trial, although they openly admitted to the viscous gang rape.  Taylor was a mother of a 2 year-old and married at the time of her attack.  She is now 91 years of age and resides in Alabama.  Yesterday, March 21, over 6,000 members of Change.org, emailed Abbeville Mayor Ryan Blalock.  As a direct result of this, Alabama State Rep. Dexter Grimsley personally apologized to Recy and her family for Alabama’s failure to prosecute her rapists and deny her justice all of these years.

In her book At the Dark End of the Street Danielle McGuire writes about the rape in 1944 of a twenty-four-year-old mother and sharecropper, Recy Taylor, who strolled toward home after an evening of singing and praying at the Rock Hill Holiness Church in Abbeville, Alabama. Seven white men, armed with knives and shotguns, ordered the young woman into their green Chevrolet, raped her, and left her for dead. The president of the local NAACP branch office sent his best investigator and organizer to Abbeville. Her name was Rosa Parks. In taking on this case, Parks launched a movement that ultimately changed the world.

At the time of the rape, Willie Taylor, the husband of then 24 year-old Recy Taylor, was offered one hundred dollars from each rapist as a proposed settlement if he would just forget that it happened.  Since the event sparked the interests of influenital individuals such as Rosa Parks and members of the NAACP, these white men were gaining much unanticipated negative attention.  Marvin White represented the seven men who openly admitted to raping Recy Taylor, and was quoted as asking Willie Taylor, “N***er- ain’t $600 enough for raping your wife?” The month following Taylor’s rape, a jury heard her case. Each man was identified, and one of the men actually confessed.  Yet, the grand jury returned no indictments on these men.

Then, that November, various activists including Rosa Parks, created the Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor, and ensured that her story would be heard in hopes of gaining justice. Due to their success in spotlighting this horrible crime, then Gov., Chauncey Sparks was pressured by society to investigate the rape by December.  Unfortunately not much has changed as far as victim-blaming goes, because during the investigation, victim-blaming and false allegations took place to desperately discredit this woman and slander her character.  Although all rapists admitted to the act, and in spite of the testimonies of various eyewitnesses, the grand jury returned no indictments.

Monday, Rep. Grimsley expressed his intent to introduce a House resolution calling for a state apology to Recy Taylor “before the session is out…The current legislative session started March 1 and goes about another six weeks,” Grimsley said.

According to Recy Taylor’s brother, Robert Corbitt, who has been tracking the lives of the men alleged to have raped his sister through all of the years (Hugo Wilson, Dillard York, Luther Lee, William Howerton, Joe Culpepper, Robert Gamble and Herbert Lovett), all of them, aside from one, are now deceased.  Recy Taylor deserves this acknowledgement.

Tell the Alabama state legislature to support Rep. Grimsley’s apology resolution — it’s time for us to stand up for Recy and for Alabama to apologize for letting her down.

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