Recy Taylor, Catalyst for Anti-Rape Activism in the Jim Crow South, Dead at 97

Recy Taylor stands in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2011, after touring the White House. (Susan Walsh/AP Images)
Recy Taylor stands in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2011, after touring the White House. (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

Recy Taylor, whose story of sexual assault at the hands of six white men in 1944 is featured in 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, died at a nursing home in Abbeville, Ala., on Thursday morning. She was 97.


Taylor’s death was confirmed by her younger brother, 81-year-old Robert Lee Corbitt, according to The Undefeated.

In addition to being a central figure in At the Dark End of the Street, Taylor was the subject of a documentary released earlier this month called The Rape of Recy Taylor, which focuses on the use of white sexual terror against black women during the Jim Crow era.

The racially motivated rape of black women by white men was as prominent during Jim Crow as the lynching of black men was, but it is a topic that is not as discussed. Sexual violence against black women often goes overlooked.

In 1944, Taylor was 24 years old and living in her hometown of Abbeville, Ala. While walking home from church one day, she was kidnapped, blindfolded and raped at gunpoint by six white men. She was then forced to beg for her life.

After she told her family what happened, her cause was taken up by Rosa Parks, who began her civil rights career as an anti-rape activist. Parks went to Abbeville and began calling for the prosecution of Taylor’s attackers, none of whom were ever indicted.


After the attack, Taylor spent most of her adult years in Winter Haven, Fla., and was moved back to Abbeville by family members when she began displaying signs of dementia.

She is survived by Corbitt as well as two sisters—Mary Murry, 90, and Lillie Kinsey, 94; one granddaughter; and several great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her only daughter, Joyce Lee Taylor, who died in a car crash in 1967.


Corbitt told The Undefeated that Taylor never recovered emotionally from the 1944 attack.

“She would only talk to me,” Corbitt said. “That’s why I dug at it so hard. After I retired, I devoted myself to getting something done about it. We did get an apology from the state of Alabama.”


Read more at The Undefeated. 



This lady suffered this torment for longer than many of us have been alive, and the caucasian demons who terrorized her are long gone and hopefully burning in their deserved hell. She spoke up when her family could have easily been murdered by these savages. To me, this defines a hero during a time when Black women were supposed to be invisible and silent.

Also much respect to Mr. Corbitt who has supported and championed his sister’s dignity and respect with his own advocacy and love for her. Hopefully the formal Alabama apology provided some acknowledgement of her pain. Rest in Power, Mrs. Taylor.