Who was Recy Taylor? The woman Oprah Winfrey wants you to know

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey mentioned Recy Taylor during her Golden Globes speech on 7 January

Oprah Winfrey gave a little history lesson during her Golden Globes speech when she mentioned a brave and strong woman named Recy Taylor. Winfrey said it was important for women in particular to know Taylor’s story, so just who was the figure given special mention?

The 63-year-old accepted the Cecil B DeMille Award at the Beverly Hilton on 7 January. Towards the latter part of her empowering speech, Winfrey recounted the remarkable story of Taylor, who was gang-raped in 1940s Alabama.

Relating Taylor’s strife to the modern-day sexual harassment scandal and Time’s Up movement, the Selma actress said: “She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

“Their time is up. And I just hope—I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on.”

Who was Recy Taylor?

Taylor was an African-American woman who spent her life living in Abbeville, Alabama.

The assault

On 3 September 1944, Taylor, 24, was walking home from church with a friend when a car pulled up alongside her. US Army Private Herbert Lovett and five other white men forced Taylor into their car at gunpoint, drove to another area and made her remove her clothes before taking it in turns to rape her.

The aftermath

Word of the attack quickly spread throughout the black community and the incident was reported to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) who passed the case onto civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

Of course, Parks would later become an icon in her own right by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1955.

Watch Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech in full:

Despite much support and rallying from Parks and her team, the men were never prosecuted after two all-white and all-male grand juries failed to indict them. This was even after one of them confessed to the rape, according to the New York Times.

In 2010, Taylor’s story returned to the forefront when historian, Danielle L McGuire, published the 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.

The book prompted the Alabama Legislature to issue a full apology to Taylor describing the lack of prosecution against the man as “morally abhorrent and regunant”.

Recy Taylor’s death

Taylor died in her sleep on 28 December 2017 at the age of 97, just three days before her 98th birthday. She still lived in Abbeville, Alabama.

Thanks to Oprah Winfrey for bringing her incredible story to light again.


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