The Woman Behind Oprah's Powerful Golden Globes Speech: Recy Taylor's Heartbreaking Fight For Justice After Being Raped By Six White Men

The Woman Behind Oprah's Powerful Golden Globes Speech: Recy Taylor's Heartbreaking Fight For Justice After Being Raped By Six White Men

The late civil rights figure's fight against sexual assault powerfully moved the award show attendees.

Published January 8, 2018

On Sunday night's broadcast of the 75th Annual Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey delivered a monumental speech upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. Whereas many recipients of lifetime achievement awards take time to reflect on their time in the industry, Oprah took a moment to uplift the late civil rights figure Recy Taylor

During the era of 1944 Jim Crow, Recy Taylor, who was a 24-year-old sharecropper at the time, was raped by six white men in Alabama while she was walking home from church. Her case attracted the help of the NAACP's Rosa Parks and become a national story, reported the New York Times. 

Although one of the men confessed, an all-white grand jury never indicted the men and shortly after Recy's story fell to the wayside. Ten days before the Golden Globes, Recy passed away at the age of 97 and Oprah used her moment on the Golden Globes stage to uplift Recy and her fight. 

"In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she'd attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn't an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday," Oprah said during her speech. 

On Sept. 4, 1944, Recy was walking along a country highway after attending services at Rock Hill Holiness Church. She was walking with friend, Fannie Daniel, 61, and Daniel’s 18-year-old son, West, was with her, according to the New York Times.

A green Chevrolet passed them several times before stopping and letting out seven young white men, armed with guns and knives. The eldest man in the group, Herbert Lovett, ordered Recy and her friends to stop, and when they refused, he pointed a gun at them.

Recy was then forced into the car at gunpoint and driven to a grove down the road. Lovett told Recy to “act just like you do with your husband or I’ll cut your damn throat.”  He and the five other men raped her, dumped her on the side of the road and left her alone and blindfolded.

As Recy tried and failed to get the Sheriff to arrest the men, word of her case made its way to the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter and Rosa Parks was sent to prosecute the case. Despite Parks’ help, the grand jury still refused to indict the men. 

After the non-indictment of Recy's attackers, the case faded until a book was published decades later, refueling the anger behind Recy's attack. 

In 2010, historian Danielle L. McGuire published 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, which featured the rape of Recy Taylor and subsequent lack of justice served. The book led to the Alabama Legislature offering an apology to Recy in 2011.

In their apology, the Alabama Legislature called the failure to indict Recy's attackers “morally abhorrent and repugnant.”

In early December, a documentary called The Rape of Recy Taylor was released. Recy died three weeks later in Abbeville, Alabama.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: Susan Walsh/AP/REX/Shutterstock)


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