The Rape of Recy Taylor

Image source: Augustus Films

Image source: Augustus Films

Recy Taylor was born on December 31, 1919 to a family of sharecroppers in Abbeville, Alabama. After her mother died when she was 17 she was left caring for six of her younger siblings. On the night of September 3, 1944 at age 24 she was walking home from church with two other church members in Abbeville when she was abducted at gunpoint and raped by six white men. Mr. Wilson (who admitted to the crime and named the five other men), Mr. Lovett, Dillard York, Luther Lee, Willie Joe Culpepper, and Robert Gamble drove her to a piney grove, forced her to undress, and raped her. The crime was heavily covered in the Black press and caught the attention of the NAACP who sent one of their young organizers, Rosa Parks, to petition Alabama for a prosecution of the men. Recy Taylor bravely and publicly identified her rapists. Eventually four of the seven men would admit to having had sex with Recy but believed it was consensual. Assumptions of promiscuity and the disregard for Black Women’s right to choose led them to believe a Black Woman would never deny them. Willie Joe Culpepper refuted that statement saying Recy was crying and begging to go home to her husband and 3 year old child. Recy and her family faced more public backlash for reporting and seeking justice for her rape than any backlash received by the actual rapists. White vigilantes set her porch on fire and tormented the family at night. After years of no prosecution Recy and her family moved to Florida and she faded into obscurity. It wasn’t until decades later her case gained renewed attention when historian Danielle L. McGuire published the 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, which included Recy’s story. The book also prompted an official apology from the Alabama Legislature in 2011 and a documentary that was released in 2017 which included an interview with Taylor. Three weeks after the release of the film Recy died at the age of 97.

Andreia WardlawComment