, 43 tweets, 28 min read
My Authors
Read all threads
Today would have been #RecyTaylor's 100th birthday. She was born on New Year’s Eve in 1919. It was a year of violence & resistance. White terrorists rampaged through black towns and folks like WEB DuBois said “We return from fighting. We return fighting.” She was born to fight.
Recy Taylor grew up in Abbeville, in SE Ala during Jim Crow. She was the eldest in a large & loving family that farmed & sharecropped. Her mother died when she was very young. She promised her she would raise her siblings. Her baby brother Robert came to see Recy as his mother
Abbeville was also home base for #RosaParks’s father’s family. She lived there for a time as a young girl and came back to help defend Recy Taylor in the fall of 1944, after a group of white teenagers kidnapped Taylor at gunpoint.
It was September 1944. Taylor walked home from a church revival. A carload of white boys with guns & knives kidnapped her off the street, blindfolded her and drove her to a pecan grove outside of town. They raped her repeatedly for more than 3 hours.
Her friends told the sheriff & her family, who desperately searched for her. Her father Benny Corbitt walked Abbeville’s streets until his shirt was wet with sweat. He spotted her stumbling toward home and helped carry her back. Her assailants threatened to kill her if she told.
But once safe, she told her father, husband & the local sheriff the details of the brutal assault. She identified the assailant’s car & the teens who attacked her. A few days later, the Montgomery NAACP heard about what happened. They promised to send their best investigator...
That investigator’s name? #RosaParks. It was 11 years before she would become famous for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. But she was already a seasoned activist, having cut her political teeth on the Scottsboro case in the early 1930s.
Rosa Parks arrived in Abbeville with a notebook & a pen. She took Taylor's testimony & carried it back to Montgomery where she & the city's most militant activists organized the "Committee For Equal Justice or Mrs. Recy Taylor." It was part of a WWII surge of black activism
The Committee for Equal Justice grew..spreading from Alabama's backroads to union halls in Chicago, hotels in Harlem and civil rights organizations from California to North Carolina. They sent petitions and postcards demanding justice for #RecyTaylor and defending her womanhood.
Their petitions piled up on the desk of AL Gov. Chauncey Sparks, who feared that Taylor's case would become "another Scottsboro" & hurt Alabama. Because the Henry County grand jury refused to indict her assailants, he ordered a private investigation to quiet the protests.
Sparks sent 2 investigators to Abbeville to ask questions. Their final report, which I found 10 years ago buried in the archives, contained admissions of guilt by the assailants and evidence that Taylor not only told the truth, but that the sheriff lied to protect the rapists.
The governor ordered a 2nd grand jury hearing in the winter of 1945, but the all-white, all-male Henry County jurors refused to indict. They just weren't willing to believe that a black woman could be raped (by white men) & that she deserved equal protection under the law.
This was part of a long legacy. From slavery through the bulk of the 20th century, white men assaulted black women and girls with total impunity. They kidnapped them off the streets, assaulted them at work (especially domestics), and attacked them on trains, taxis, and buses.
White supremacy and patriarchy dictated that black women's bodies did not belong to themselves, they belonged to everyone. What happened to #RecyTaylor was the rule, not the exception. (I documented multiple cases in my book, At the Dark End of the Street (Knopf))
What WAS exceptional: #RecyTaylor's willingness to fight back; to speak out & say "I Am Somebody." Her refusal to be silent came decades before women took back the night, held "speak outs" or said #MeToo. Taylor refused to be ashamed or silenced She was ahead of the women's mvmt
When I asked her in 2009 why she spoke out, given the danger & threats to her life, she said, "I didn't deserve what they did to me." It was a simple, yet bold stand for her own personhood & human dignity. It's a truth that resonates today with the #MeToo and #SayHerName movement
#RecyTaylor never got justice in the Alabama courts. The white Henry County jurors refused to see her humanity; denied her the most basic rights to bodily integrity & justice. They denied her the right to move through the world unmolested. The activists moved on & so did she.
She & her husband raised their daughter, Joyce Lee. For a time they lived in Montgomery with the help of #RosaParks & the local NAACP. But they missed the closeness & safety of family & went back to Abbeville. Eventually she moved to Florida to pick oranges--not an easy life.
#RecyTaylor's daughter died in a tragic car accident. She and her husband separated. In many ways, her life was full of tragedy and disappointment. She persevered through hardship and struggle. Her survival was, in many ways, a miracle.
I met #RecyTaylor in 2008 after I had written a PhD dissertation about racialized sexual violence during the Jim Crow era. I came across her story in a pamphlet put together by the Civil Rights Congress in the 1950s. There was one sentence that mentioned her 1944 case. 1 sentence
It was a thread & I pulled it. It took me first to Alabama to Governor Sparks' papers, then to upstate NY to Earl Conrad's papers, then to archives up & down the east coast & the midwest. Finally it took me to her & her family. After many years, I stitched the story together.
The biggest discovery was that #RosaParks investigated #RecyTaylor's case. I found bits of evidence in the archives, but nowhere else. I didn't get confirmation until I met Recy in 2008 & she told me Parks came to visit her in 1944. Her family said the sheriff pushed Parks' down.
#RosaParks was not the "chief rape investigator" for the Montgomery NAACP, as some have claimed. But she was an investigator. As secretary, she traveled the backroads of AL gathering stories, taking notes, & crafting the NAACP's response. She was a detective who sought justice.
#RosaParks was interested in rape cases. She & her husband Raymond were part of an underground network of activists in the 1930s & 40s who worked to defend the Scottsboro boys from white women's false charges of rape. And she knew all about white men's lust for black women.
When #RosaParks was a teen, she worked as a babysitter for a white family. A white man forced his way inside & tried to assault her. She resisted forcefully & wrote about the encounter. She told him she would never consent. He would have to kill her and "rape a dead body."
#RosaParks's account of the assault is a must-read for anyone who thinks she merely tiptoed into history. Rosa Parks was a radical & lifelong activist for human dignity & equal justice. When she arrived in Abbeville in 1944 to help #RecyTaylor, she knew exactly what she was doing
After the Henry County Grand Jury refused to indict #RecyTaylor's assailants, the Committee for Equal Justice turned its attention to other cases where white men assaulted and raped black women and girls. The fight didn't end. Taylor's testimony inspired then as it does now.
I interviewed #RecyTaylor in January 2009, the day that millions witnessed the inauguration of @BarackObama. We watched it together & I asked her if she ever thought a Black woman would be the First Lady? She said that during Jim Crow Black women weren't even considered "ladies."
@BarackObama I wrote about meeting #RecyTaylor and her family and how it changed my life. freep.com/story/opinion/…
@BarackObama Meeting #RecyTaylor in 09 was a highlight of my life. She & her whole family embraced me, accepted me & allowed me to help tell their story. I am forever indebted to them for trusting me over this past decade. I learned so much from them about grace, courage, resistance & dignity
@BarackObama My book was published by Knopf in 2010. The first three chapters & the epilogue detail #RecyTaylor story & the major civil rights campaign to bring her justice. Hers was the largest mvmt for justice since the Scottsboro struggle & it helped fuel the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
@BarackObama In 2011, we honored #RecyTaylor at the National Press Club in D.C. It was standing-room only & she got up & spoke her truth. She was still strong, still courageous and still willing to demand justice. We toured the White House, too. I wish she could've met @MichelleObama
@BarackObama @MichelleObama And in 2011, after an organic online petition drive, the state of Alabama issued a formal apology for the state's "abhorrent and repugnant failure to properly investigate" Recy Taylor's 1944 rape case. It wasn't justice. But even the state of Alabama had to finally #SayHerName.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama #RecyTaylor was a heroine. Her resistance to rape helped spark the civil rights movement and her testimony helped lay the foundation for the women's movement. Today we can say #MeToo largely because Black women like Recy Taylor said it decades earlier. washingtonpost.com/news/post-nati…
@BarackObama @MichelleObama At #RecyTaylor’s funeral two years ago, her family received a proclamation from the indomitable @repjohnlewis, extolling her resistance & testimony. It was a show of respect and honor from one great freedom fighter to another.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis The eulogy emphasized that #RecyTaylor was a promise keeper devoted to her family and God. She was a woman who stood up for justice, loved to laugh & liked nice hats. She endured horrors & survived to tell her story.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis #RecyTaylor was the matriarch of her family & has a number of nieces, nephews, grandchildren & great grandchildren who love her dearly and carry on her legacy. Her baby brother, Robert Corbitt worked for years to get some measure of justice for her. He is a singular role model.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis The day after #RecyTaylor's funeral, @Oprah told her story to millions of people watching the Golden Globes. It was an incredible bookend to Taylor's life & brought her & her family a sliver of hope that her fight was not in vain; that people would now know name & know her fight
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis @Oprah A week or so later, the Congressional Black Caucus honored her and other survivors of sexual assault at the 2018 #SOTU. They all wore #RecyTaylor & #TimesUp pins in her honor.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis @Oprah I remain heartbroken that the world lost such a powerful and courageous woman in #RecyTaylor. But her story, her bravery & her demand for dignity & bodily integrity lives on anytime someone refuses to remain silent, says #MeToo or speaks out against injustice. Happy 100th, Recy.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis @Oprah #RecyTaylor in DC for our visit to the White House in 2011.
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis @Oprah Read more about #RecyTaylor & other Black women (like #BettyJeanOwens, #RubyPigford #JoanLittle #RosaLeeCoates #GertrudePerkins) who stood up, spoke out, & fought racialized sexual violence. Their testimonies helped spark the civil rights & women's mvmts. amazon.com/At-Dark-End-St…
@BarackObama @MichelleObama @repjohnlewis @Oprah Thanks for coming to my early morning, end-of-the-decade, keep-fighting-for-equal-justice-and-bodily-integrity-and-#citeblackwomen #NYE Ted talk. @TEDTalks.
Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh.

Enjoying this thread?

Keep Current with Danielle L. McGuire

Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!