“The Rape of Recy Taylor” documents the little known details of a case that helped spark a movement! Featuring commentary from family members and Mrs. Taylor, this film gives a first-hand account of one woman’s pain and bravery.
Alabama is still haunted by the ghosts of it’s past. During Jim Crow, the state found itself consumed by hatred at every level- people who held the power were often staunch racists who were unapologetic about turning a blind eye to justice. At 24, Recy Taylor was abducted by a group of white teens and raped in the town of Abbeville; she became one of a countless number of victims. Recy was a Black woman in a small rural town. She was well-known in her community, married with a child; her attackers claimed her to be a prostitute. These claims weren’t unusual. Stemming from slavery, the bodily integrity of Black women didn’t exist to men outside of the race.
The word of a Black person didn't matter, especially a woman.
On the night of her attack, Recy Taylor was walking home from a church service. Her brother recounts that her attackers had, unsuccessfully, attempted to force themselves on a pair of sisters and their daughters. After that did not work, they turned their attention to women leaving the church. Recy Taylor remained very clear about what happened next. She was forced into a car at gunpoint and taken to the woods. Recy was sexually assaulted by a group of white boys and dropped off on the side of the road. Witnesses went to Recy’s family’s home and reported to her father and siblings what happened. Benny Corbitt, the patriarch of the family grabbed his gun and went searching for his daughter.
The documentary includes a chilling voiceover of the court papers that recorded witness statements, defendant testimonies and detective notes.
Eventually, all of the boys who raped Recy Taylor were found not guilty and were able to lead normal lives. One of the boys received a Purple Heart for his service in the military. Meanwhile, Mrs. Taylor never had another child, her home was firebombed and her marriage ended.
The way these stories were silenced reinforces a social hierarchy that contends black women should be grateful for attention from white men, even if it’s unsolicited or unwanted. Worse, it tells the world that black women and the assaults on us simply don’t matter. Ignoring this area of history has enormously harmful consequences, feeding into how we process accusations of sexual assault from black women today.
This film explores the themes of White privilege and control while reiterating the ideas of Black resistance and perseverance.
Rosa Parks was one of the first people to rush to Abbeville to aid Recy. After her second visit, Mrs. Parks was forcibly removed from the Corbitt home and threatened by the sheriff. Instead of succumbing to intimidation, Rosa Parks spread the story of Recy’s rape to Black-owned newspapers from Chicago to California. With papers like the Chicago Defender, marginalized people were able to narrate their own stories- genuinely. This reporting put pressure on the South, just like in so many cases of racial injustice.
In 2011, the Alabama Legislature gave Recy Taylor a formal apology. Viewers get to see what Mrs. Taylor looked like in 2017 before her death. She sits in her chair, hair neatly done, pearls draping from her neck. She does not back down about the details of her life. It seemed that she knew her story has emboldened generations of Black girls and women to speak up and speak out. “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is a heartbreaking story of the horrors of racism that leaves viewers inspired by the resilience of one woman.