Alabama Town Apologizes to 91-Year-Old for World War II-Era Rape

Monday, March 28, 2011
Recy Taylor (photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP)
Officials of the small town of Abbeville, Alabama, have publicly apologized to a 91-year-old African-American woman for not prosecuting the white men who raped her in 1944.
Recy Taylor, then 24, was married, a mother and living in Henry County, was walking home from church with two friends when she was abducted at knife point by seven white men, driven to a secluded area and raped repeatedly.
Two all-white, all-male grand juries declined to bring charges against the culprits. Local police were faulted for mishandling the investigation and harassing Taylor, whose home was firebombed two days after the crime.
Her case attracted the attention of NAACP activist Rosa Parks (before she became an icon by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus), who spearheaded the creation of the “Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor.”
Taylor, who now lives in Florida, says she believes the men who assaulted her are all dead. She hoped for an apology from the state, but instead got one from Abbeville officials.
Her ailing health prevented her from attending the special event where a local judge, JoAnn Smith, declared the system “failed” Taylor more than 65 years ago. Another official, State Rep. Dexter Grimsley (D-Newville), apologized directly to Taylor’s brother, 74-year-old Robert Corbitt, adding, “We can't stand around and say that it didn't happen.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
“It Was like All of Us Had Been Raped”: Sexual Violence, Community Mobilization, and the African American Freedom Struggle

(by Danielle L. McGuire, Journal of American History


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