Her bravery lives on: Recy Taylor, Alabama woman and anti-rape activist at the forefront of a brutal gang rape in 1944, dies at 97

By: Erica M. Ponder

In wake of the #MeToo movement, our underrated, unsung heroes are gaining some much deserved recognition, even as their lives come to an end.

Recy Taylor, an African-American woman who challenged the justice system after she was abducted and gang raped by six white men in Abbeville, Alabama, has died just three days shy of her 98th birthday.

According to NBC News, Taylor’s brother, Robert Corbitt, told officials she died peacefully in a nursing home in Abbeville.

A 24-year-old sharecropper at the time of the sexual assault that left her unable to have more children, Taylor said she was walking home from church one night when the six men pulled up behind her and made her get into the vehicle. The men then took Taylor to the woods and undressed her, taking turns raping her.

Although Taylor was encouraged to keep quiet about what happened to her, she refused, and received numerous death threats from white members of the community. What started out as a crime scene soon became a driving force behind the civil rights movement.

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Taylor’s story struck so many people, and was told throughout black publications all across America. Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama, she investigated the assault, shaking up the town in a huge way.

Although Parks was threatened by the town’s sheriff, her and so many others were determined to seek justice for Taylor. The result– an all-white, all-male jury refused to indict the men (even after one of them told a similar story to Taylor’s). Even after a second investigation, justice was never served.

It would take years before Taylor’s story would resurface. Decades later, she was issued an apology from the Alabama legislature “for its failure to prosecute her attackers,” according to NBC.

In a recent documentary called “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” Taylor’s story was told at the New York Film Festival this fall. The film sheds light on the Jim Crow era of justice (or lack thereof) as it pertains to African-American women and the abuse they suffered at the hands of white men.

Taylor will continue to be known for her courage and perseverance in the face of her oppressors, no matter the cost. May other women like her have the strength to come forward and say “me too.”

Watch the trailer for “The Rape of Recy Taylor” here.