obituary / justice

Recy Taylor, Who Fought for Justice After a 1944 Rape, Dies at 97

The crime was never prosecuted because two all-white grand juries refused to indict her attackers. Alabama lawmakers apologized in 2011.
Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old African-American sharecropper, was walking home from church in Abbeville, Ala., on the night of Sept. 3, 1944, when she was abducted and raped by six white men.

The crime was extensively covered in the black press and an early catalyst for the civil rights movement. The N.A.A.C.P. sent a young activist from its Montgomery, Ala., chapter named Rosa Parks to investigate. African-Americans around the country demanded that the men be prosecuted.

But the attack, like many involving black victims during the Jim Crow era in the South, never went to trial. Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men, even though one of them had confessed.

Decades passed before the case gained renewed attention, with the publication in 2010 of “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,” by the historian Danielle L. McGuire. The book prompted an official apology in 2011 to Mrs. Taylor by the Alabama Legislature, which called the failure to prosecute her attackers “morally abhorrent and repugnant.”

Mrs. Taylor died in Abbeville on Thursday, three weeks after the release of “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” a documentary about the crime. She was 97. The death was confirmed by her brother, Robert Lee Corbitt.
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