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During her speech, Winfrey highlighted the impact of racial discrimination and sexual abuse in women’s lives and dedicated her award to “all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault.”
She mentioned one name in particular: Recy Taylor.
Who was Recy Taylor?
Taylor was a black woman from Abbeville, Alabama, who was abducted and then raped by six white men in 1944.
The 24-year-old young mother was walking home from a church service when she was blindfolded, abducted, raped and left on the road.
The six white men were reportedly armed and had threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the attack.
Taylor did end up telling authorities, but like many attacks involving black victims during the Jim Crow era in the South, The New York Times reported, her case never went to trial. “Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men, even though one of them had confessed,” according to the Times.
Renowned civil rights icon Rosa Parks, then a young activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was sent to investigate the case.
But it wasn’t until 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” in 2010 that the case gained the attention it deserved.
In 2011, the Alabama Legislature called the state’s failure to prosecute Taylor’s attackers “morally abhorrent and repugnant,” the Times reported.
On Thursday, Jan. 4, Taylor passed away in Abbeville, Alabama. She would have celebrated her 98th birthday Sunday.
Her story was recently in the spotlight thanks to the film, “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” which made its U.S. debut at the New York Film Festival this fall.