Recy Taylor: Woman Gets Apology for unprosecuted Rape in 1944

22 Apr

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black WorldScholarship in Action 


Recy Taylor, a 91-year old woman in Alabama, has received an official apology from the state of Alabama for a rape that occurred nearly 70 years ago.  Ms. Taylor was raped on her way home from church by seven white men.  The men were never prosecuted for their crime and allowed to live the rest of their lives without punishment.

Gov. Robert Bentley said that he plans to sign the resolution, which was passed by the state legislature.  Ms. Taylor was also grateful.

"I think that’s nice," she said. "It’s been a long time. I’m satisfied."

Rep. Dexter Grimsley introduced the legislation and says that not prosecuting the men for this crime was “morally abhorrent and repugnant.”  He also said that the police harassed Ms. Taylor during their investigation.  She was 24-years old when she was raped and said that the men used a knife and gun to force her into a car. They then took her to a deserted area, raped her and left her on the roadside.   An all-white, all-male grand jury refused to indict the men for their crimes.  In fact, the police attempted to blame Ms. Taylor for the attack; their family was threatened and their house was fire bombed.

Before we begin to celebrate the fact that the state of Alabama is starting to acknowledge its horrific crimes against people of color, let’s take a moment of pause and consider a few facts about this situation:

1) Ms. Taylor doesn’t deserve a simple apology – the apology was due nearly 70 years ago.  She deserves significant and meaningful financial compensation.  Her family should receive no less than $10 million dollars for the fact that the state of Alabama deliberately allowed her attackers to go free and created an environment in which her crime was compounded by subsequent death threats.   Victims of Japanese internment camps were compensated for their experience and the same should be true for Ms. Taylor, her family and others who’ve gone through similar experiences.

2) Recy Taylor is just one of thousands of victims of this form of injustice.  It took decades for Ms. Taylor to even get the state of Alabama to acknowledge the horror that she experienced.  The fact remains that there are thousands of others who’ve gone through equal amounts of trauma who simply died with unaddressed and stinging psychological pain.   We must find a way to acknowledge the thousands of other cases that went unsolved and work to make things right.

3) The injustice continues to this day.  When I consider the case of Rodney K. Stanberry, the black man in Alabama who remains in prison for a murder that I am certain he did not commit, it is clear that the Alabama justice system is not cured of the racism that led to the rape of Ms. Taylor and all the other horrible things that have happened to black people in America.  There must be an overhaul of the entire justice system and the prison industrial complex, because not only have black people been unprotected by the law, we’ve also prosecuted and victimized by law enforcement more than any other ethnic group in America.

As the cases of Ms. Taylor and Mr. Stanberry show us, the justice system is full of political roaches.  When a home is full of rodents, you can’t clean it out one bug at a time.  Broader and more dramatic action becomes necessary, so Attorney General Eric Holder must involve himself in the cleanup process.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 

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