Unsung civil rights hero and rape survivor Recy Taylor has died at 97 years old. Her brother, Robert Corbitt, told NBC News she died peacefully in her sleep at an Abbevulle, Alabama, nursing home.
“(She was) a brave woman and a fighter who tried her best to get it known all over the world,”Corbitt told NBC News.
She would have turned 98 Sunday.
The Alabama woman’s life changed in 1944 when she was 24 years old. A married mother of two at the time, Taylor was on her way home from a church service one September evening in Abbeville. Six armed white men kidnapped, and raped Taylor, leaving her on the side of the road.
The men allegedly threatened to kill Taylor if she told anyone about the attack. She told authorities anyway.
Danielle L. McGuire, historian and author of the 2010 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,” recalled on Twitter that the Montgomery NAACP learned of the story and “promised to send their best investigator.”
The investigator it sent was Rosa Parks, just over a decade before she would refuse to give up her bus seat as part of efforts to spark the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama.
McGuire told Taylor’s story in her book.
That investigator’s name? Rosa Parks. It was 11 years before she would become famous for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. But she was already a seasoned activist, having cut her political teeth on the Scottsboro case in the early 1930s.— Danielle L. McGuire (@dmcguire13) December 28, 2017
It was reported that the suspects’ lawyer told her husband, “(Racial slur) — ain’t $600 enough for raping your wife.”
Taylor was unshaken by threats and bribes and she proceeded with the case, but did not immediately receive justice in the Jim Crow South, even after at least one of her six attackers admitted to the crime.
The Associated Press reported two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to bring an indictment against the men.
Taylor told The AP in 2010 that she wanted to see an apology from officials.
“It would mean a whole lot to me,” she said. “The people who done this to me … they can’t do no apologizing. Most of them is gone.”
The Alabama state legislature apologized in 2011 for its “morally abhorrent and repugnant” failure to prosecute Taylor’s case.
Recy Taylor is a heroine. Her resistance to rape helped spark the civil rights movement and her testimony against her assailants helped lay the foundation for the women's movement. Today we can say #MeToo largely because women like Recy Taylor said it decades earlier.— Danielle L. McGuire (@dmcguire13) December 28, 2017
Taylor’s story received a new wave of popularity after “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” a documentary by Nancy Buirski, was released earlier this month.