Taylor was attacked by six white men as she walked home from church
Men who admitted assault were not indicted by all-white, all-male grand juries
Recy Taylor, a black Alabama woman whose rape by six white men in 1944 drew national attention, died on Thursday. She was 97.
Taylor died in her sleep at a nursing home in Abbeville, her brother Robert Corbitt said. He said Taylor had been in good spirits the previous day and her death was sudden. She would have been 98 on Sunday.
Taylor’s story, along with those of other black women attacked by white men during the civil rights era, is told in At the Dark End of the Street, a book by Danielle McGuire released in 2010. A documentary on her case, The Rape of Recy Taylor, was released this year.
The Rape of Recy Taylor is directed by Nancy Buirski, best known for directing The Loving Story, about Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple who toppled laws against interracial marriage
“This is such an important time in this country’s path to recognize Recy Taylor,” Buirski told the Guardian this month. “With women being singled out on Time magazine’s cover, as part of the #MeToo campaign, I really want to draw attention to the black women who spoke up when their lives were seriously in danger.”
Taylor was 24 when she was abducted and raped as she walked home from church in Abbeville. Her attackers left her on the side of the road in an isolated area. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) assigned Rosa Parks to investigate the case, and she rallied support for justice for Taylor.
Two all-white, all-male grand juries declined to indict the six white men who admitted to authorities that they assaulted her.
In a 2010 interview, Taylor said she believed the men who attacked her were dead, but she still would like an apology from officials.
“It would mean a whole lot to me,” Taylor said. “The people who done this to me … they can’t do no apologizing. Most of them is gone.”
The Alabama legislature passed a resolution apologizing to her in 2011.
Buirski told the Guardian that “during the civil rights movement, issues like equal accommodations and voting rights became more vital to the general population than issues about ‘sexual stuff’. That was something that people put aside, that people didn’t want to talk about. It was unseemly to talk about, and certainly, to fight about.”
But Buirski said the movement remained rooted in what one academic has called “a bodily claim to own a space”, a debt Buirski said it owed partly to women like Taylor.
“That was her legacy,” Buirski said. “Recy Taylor was so courageous, so brave to have spoken up.”