Recy Taylor was coming home from a church revival in Abbeville, Ala., when he was approached by a green Chevrolet full of white males.
She attempted to flee, but one of the men grabbed her and dragged her into the sedan. According to state records, she was driven into a grove of pine trees, where six men savagely raped her one by one, threatening to slit her throat if she called out.
Although no arrests were made, Taylor’s rape made national headlines. On Sept. 3, 1944, a black lady was raped, and achieving justice in the segregated South was practically impossible.
“The Rape of Recy Taylor,” a new documentary, is based on the case. Taylor died on the 28th of December 2017, just before her 98th birthday, at an Abbeville nursing home, according to her brother Robert Corbitt.
Rosa Parks, a well-known civil rights icon, is also featured in the film. When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Montgomery headquarters learned of Taylor’s rape in Abbeville, Parks was dispatched to investigate. She was 31 years old at the time.
Parks spotted Taylor at her house in Abbeville, a cabin on a sharecropper’s plantation. Taylor related the assault to her, and she took notes.
Taylor was blindfolded and abandoned on the side of a deserted road after the men assaulted her.
“After they messed over and did what they were going to do me, they say, ‘We’re going to take you back. We’re going to put you out. But if you tell it, we’re going to kill you,” Taylor remembered in a 2011 interview with NPR’s Michel Martin.
Taylor’s father, who had been searching for her, came across his daughter staggering along the roadway at 3 a.m.
Recy Taylor’s friend, Fannie Daniel, had witnessed the kidnapping and had previously informed Will Cook, a retired police chief who also owned a store. Taylor and her father went to the local county sheriff, Lewey Corbitt, and reported the assault.
Hugo Wilson, one of the assailants, confessed to the rape and identified Dillard York, Billy Howerton, Herbert Lovett, Luther Lee, Joe Culpepper, and Robert Gamble as accomplices.
None of the men were arrested by the police.
According to the book, while Parks was interviewing Taylor, Corbitt continued to drive by the house.
Finally, the sheriff barged into Taylor’s home and demanded that Rosa Parks leave.
He stated, “I don’t want any troublemakers here in Abbeville.” “If you don’t go, I’ll put you in jail.”
Parks returned to Montgomery and established the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor almost immediately. According to the Chicago Defender, the organization bombarded the South with fliers “decrying white attacks on black women.”
The title of a piece in the Chicago Defender read, “Victim of White Alabama Rapists.” It appeared above a now-famous photo of Taylor, clad in a hat and checkered blazer, sitting on a sofa with her daughter, Jayce, on her lap and her husband, Willie Guy Taylor, beside her.
According to Fred Atwater, a staff correspondent for The Defender, the lawyer defending the suspects in the case offered Willie Guy Taylor $600 to hush his wife. The lawyer was quoted in the story as stating, “Nigger — ain’t $600 enough for raping your wife.” “If Recy Taylor forgets,” the six defendants were willing to pay $100 a piece.
A grand jury refused to indict the men on Oct. 9, 1944. Parks was outraged and encouraged others to submit letters of protest to then-Alabama Governor Chauncey Sparks. Hundreds of angry letters began to arrive at the governor’s office.
Parks wrote the governor a letter on the letterhead of the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice:
“As a citizen of Alabama, I urge you to use your high office to reconvene the Henry County Grand Jury at the earliest possible moment,” Parks wrote. “Alabamians are depending upon you to see that all obstacles, which are preventing justice in this case, be removed. I know that you will not fail to let the people of Alabama know that there is equal justice for all of our citizens.”
Sparks responded by ordering a new inquiry into the rape. A Henry County grand jury refused to indict the suspects a second time on Feb. 14, 1945. The men were never brought to justice.