For Women’s History Month, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is showing a documentary that tells the story of rape survivor Recy Taylor while shining a light on Rosa Parks’ investment in Taylor’s case.
On March 16 from 7-9:30 p.m., the museum held Cinema + Conversation: The Rape of Recy Taylor, a documentary telling the story of the 24-year-old sharecropper who in 1944 was kidnapped at gunpoint and brutally raped by six White men in Alabama while she was walking home from church.
After Taylor identified the rapists, the NAACP sent Parks, then a rape investigator, to look into her case and rally support for her cause, igniting Blacks around the country to demand justice.
But Taylor would never see justice.
The Jim Crow-era attack never went to trial. Two, all-White, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men, even after one of them confessed, according to the New York Times.
It wasn’t until the 2010 publication of “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rap and Resistance — a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” by historian Danielle L. McGuire that Taylor’s story attracted more attention, according to the Times.
The book led the Alabama Legislature to officially apologize to Taylor in 2011, calling the failure to prosecute the White men accused of raping her “morally abhorrent and repugnant,” the Times reported.
The film underscores the legacy of abuse against Black women.
“Many ladies got raped,” Taylor said in the film. “The peoples there — they seemed like they wasn’t concerned about what happened to me, and they didn’t try and do nothing about it. I can’t help but tell the truth of what they done to me.”
Taylor died last year at the age of 97, three days after the documentary came out.
In light of the Me-Too movement, Taylor’s story received more attention earlier this year at the Golden Globes when Oprah Winfrey invoked her name while accepting a lifetime achievement award. Winfrey said she hoped Taylor died knowing “that her truth, like so many other women who were tormented in those years, even now tormented, goes marching on.
“She lived, as we all have lived, too many in a culture broken by brutally powerful men,” Winfrey said. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak the truth to the power of those men.
“But their time is up,” Winfrey said to a standing ovation.