No Justice for Recy Taylor & Other Black Women Savagely Raped by White Men

Last week the PR people for a new show on one of my favorite channels, Discovery ID (Investigative Discovery, sent me an email. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in an early screening of their new show Injustice Files. The show has since premiered, and it airs on Friday nights at 9PM EST. The show centers on unsolved civil rights-era crimes against people of color; a Cold Case Files for Negroes if you will. And, can you imagine how many such cases exist?
(Pasadena, CA) – In February 2007, the FBI officially launched a new investigative effort called the Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative, which was tasked with taking a fresh look at racially-motivated homicide investigations that occurred prior to 1970.  Since then, over 100 cold cases have been identified for this initiative as the FBI partnered with local and state authorities, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Urban League to help investigate these aging unsolved cases and bring justice to the victims’ families.  In an effort to bring attention to these important investigations, Investigation Discovery teamed with critically-acclaimed documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, producer of The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, and CBS EYE Productions to showcase three cases included in the FBI’s Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative.  In commemoration of Black History Month, Investigation Discovery launches THE INJUSTICE FILES… (source)Ironically, my man Field Negro reached out to me over the weekend with info on a civil rights-era case that is still unsolved involving 90-year-old Recy Taylor. Taylor was a victim of a crime that many Black women were victims to then, that is never talked about. Of course this being Black History Month, if we’re gonna talk about the advances and laud accomplishments of many who came before us. In my opinion, it’s only right that we never forget the women permanently scarred like Ms. Taylor; women who were victims of rape:
ATLANTA (AP) — Years before Rosa Parks fought for justice from her seat on a Montgomery bus, she fought for Recy Taylor.

Parks was an NAACP activist crisscrossing Alabama in 1944 when she came across the case of Taylor, a 24-year-old wife and mother who was brutally gang raped and dumped on the side of a rural road. Taylor survived only to watch two all-white, all-male grand juries decline to indict the six white men who admitted to authorities that they assaulted her.

Taylor was one of many black women attacked by white men during an era in which sexual assault was used to informally enforce Jim Crow segregation. Their pain galvanized an anti-rape crusade that ultimately took a back seat to the push to dismantle officially sanctioned separation of the races, and slowly faded from the headlines.

Many of these rape victims never got justice and the desire for closure is still there, more than 60 years later — leaving some to wonder what, if anything, can be done to address the wrongs done to them.

“I didn’t get nothing, ain’t nothing been done about it,” Taylor, now 90, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from her central Florida home. The AP is revealing Taylor’s identity because she has publicly identified herself as a victim of sexual assault.
“I was an honest person and living right,” Taylor said. “They shouldn’t have did that. I never give them no reason to do it.”

For 20 years after she was raped, Taylor and her family lived in the same Abbeville, Ala., community as the families of her attackers. She spent many years living in fear, and says local whites continued to treat her badly, even after her assailants left town.

Evelyn Lowery, an activist whose husband, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, worked with Martin Luther King Jr., suggested that an apology from the government could be a start to the healing.

“I certainly think it would be in order,” Evelyn Lowery said. “For many years, they tried to say that women were the cause of this, that (black) women wanted sexual activity. … It hasn’t been true, but the courts used that to justify not taking action on behalf of the women. It was very demoralizing to all of us.”

Taylor is not inclined to pursue a civil case. She believes most, if not all, of her attackers are dead. But she does find the idea of an official apology appealing.

“It would mean a whole lot to me,” Taylor said. “The people who done this to me … they can’t do no apologizing. Most of them is gone.”

[…] The Justice Department is not looking into civil rights-era sexual assault cases and lacks jurisdiction to do so, said spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. She notes that the Emmett Till Act, which created an office to investigate unsolved civil rights-era crimes, is specifically limited to race-motivated killings only.

Parks came to Abbeville in 1944 to investigate Taylor’s case. She went back to Montgomery, recruited other activists and by the spring of 1945 had organized the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor. Local blacks rallied around Taylor even though they knew convictions of her attackers were unlikely, Corbitt said.

“We done all we could to make a little noise,” Corbitt said. “We felt that we was getting back at them some way or another. We thought maybe we’ll be able to expose these people to the community and at least that they’ll be looking upon them as rapists.”

Eventually, even Taylor herself gave up. In 1965, she and her family relocated to central Florida.

“I felt like if I tried to push it, to try to get them put in jail, I thought maybe it would be bad on me, so I just left town,” Taylor said.

Other blacks, typically women, wrote letters to their governors and other lawmakers demanding justice for these victims. They also expanded their advocacy to take aim at segregated public accommodations.

By the time Parks made history in 1955, hundreds of black women had begun organizing their resistance to the name-calling and inappropriate sexual advances to which they were subjected daily aboard Montgomery’s city buses. A high school student, Claudette Colvin, had refused to yield a bus seat before Parks did, but did not become a cause celebre partly because she lacked Parks’ pristine image and community standing.

Though the public face of the movement became a coalition of black ministers led by King, black women worked behind the scenes organizing and driving carpools, filling church pews and raising funds to keep the 13-month boycott going, McGuire wrote. (full story here)It’s really a shame that the crime of rape against Ms. Recy isn’t viewed as racially motivated, and as a result, cannot be investigated by the FBI. While many Black women raised families as they toiled in the homes of White folks – cooking, cleaning, and raising their children – many of them were raped by white men as the ultimate manifestation of racial dominanc e and superiority. That said, it is unbelievable that crimes such as these in the south, are not viewed today as racially motivated; I doubt they were gang-raping white women back then with a similar frequency. But then again, what do I know.

My guess is that many women were killed in the commission of these most heinous crimes; and, much like lynchings, the victims were reduced to being subhuman species worthy of being snuffed off the earth.

I’m not sure if an apology can do anything for Ms. Taylor. But as she said, most of, if not all of the men who violated her are probably dead. But if an apology is good enough for her, then so be it. For me, I’d love to see an actual formal investigation by the FBI on the happenstance that at least one of them is still alive. But if we’re going to go the route of issued apologies. How about Ms Taylor get one from the men of the Civil Rights Movement. You know, the men who never saw her pain to be fitting of justice in this land of ours?

As for my part, I plan to share this story with the folks at Injustice Files who have urged me to keep in touch. I’m not sure if this would be enough to spark an investigation. But one can hope, can I? Maybe if more people would share this story it can create enough buzz that attention is drawn to these atrocious injustice of racially motivated rape. Like one famous preacher once said, “The time is always right to do the right thing.” Hopefully somebody will do just that.

Check out Ms. Recy Taylor in her own words: