How Recy Taylor’s 1944 rape inspired black women’s resistance
Recy Taylor made national news in 1944 when she was kidnapped at gunpoint and brutally raped by six white men.
24-year-old Recy Taylor was walking home to her husband and young daughter after a late church service.
After the men kidnapped Taylor and assaulted her for several hours, they left her blindfolded on the side of the road.
“After they messed over and did what they were going to do me, they say, ‘We’re going to take you back. We’re going to put you out. But if you tell it, we’re going to kill you,’” her rapists told her.
Despite the threats against her life, Recy Taylor and her family immediately went to the police.
Seven men abducted Recy Taylor that night: Hugo Wilson, Billy Howerton, Herbert Lovett, Luther Lee, Robert Gamble, Joe Culpepper and Dillard York. Although six of the seven men raped her (only one man actually admitted to raping Taylor), an all-white, all-male jury decided to not indict the men.
About a month after the attack, six of the men said they were willing to pay Recy Taylor $100 each if she “would forget” about the gang rape. She declined the money.
Her case was later taken up by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Rosa Parks, who was an advocate for black female victims of sexual violence at the time, was assigned to be the lead investigator on Taylor’s case.
Parks herself had been a victim of an attempted rape by a white man in 1931 and began her career as an anti-rape activist. She took Taylor’s case 12 years before her iconic refusal to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama.
Vigilantes firebombed Recy Taylor’s house after she reported the assault. She and her family received dozens of death threats from white neighbors in her community. With Parks’ help, a second investigation was opened into the six assailants but another all-white, all-male grand jury declined to indict the men.
In 2011, the Alabama legislature formally apologized to Recy Taylor for not prosecuting her assailants.
Recy Taylor, the black woman from Alabama who bravely came forward in the 1940s against her white attackers, died on December 28 2017. She was 97.
Recy Taylor will be remembered for bravely speaking out after she was gang-raped by six white men in the Jim Crow era.
May this fearless and bold Recy Taylor rest in power. She’s an inspiration to black women all over the world.