Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, was gang raped by six white boys in 1944 Alabama. Common in Jim Crow South, few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists. The NAACP sent its chief rape investigator Rosa Parks, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice.
Our film exposes a legacy of physical abuse of black women and reveals Rosa Parks’ intimate role in Recy Taylor’s story. An attempted rape against Parks was but one inspiration for her ongoing work to find justice for countless women like Taylor. The 1955 bus boycott was an end result, not a beginning.
More and more women are now speaking up after rape. Our film tells the story of black women who spoke up when danger was greatest; it was their noble efforts to take back their bodies that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and movements that followed. The 2017 Global March by Women is linked to their courage. From sexual aggression on ‘40s southern streets to today’s college campuses and to the threatened right to choose, it is control of women’s bodies that powered the movement in Recy Taylor’s day and fuels our outrage today. [source: therapeofrecytaylor.com]
Talk-Back led by Beth Norbrey Hopkins, J.D. Retired Professor of Practice, Wake Forest University School of Law
Speaker: As Maya Angelou says, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.” If Maya Angelou were sitting here today what would she say about Recy?
Audience Member: That she was a phenomenal woman.
Speaker: What do we learn from Recy? What do we gather from her?… Was she really vindicated?
Audience Member: By this movie.
Speaker: By this movie. By this movie. Look at the power and the importance of the Black Press. I mean, there are so many layers to this documentary. We were not surprised that her story was not published in the white press in the beginning. What did surprise me is that the Alabama Legislature said, ‘I’m sorry.’ How long did it take them? 2011. It took them that long to get it together. And for those of you all from North Carolina and the East Coast don’t forget the Joan Little story. When was that, 1974? Somewhere in that area. She was assaulted by a prison guard and she killed him with an ice pick…he brought it in to get her to perform oral sex, and she said ‘I’m not doing that anymore.’ She had the first successful defense in a sexual assault case in the United States… and recently the New York hotel maid case. That one did not turn out as well. The immigrant… that was subsequently dismissed.
Let’s talk about Recy. Was she lucky to live?
Speaker: Her story was very compelling. Why was she lucky to live?
Audience: They could have killed her.
Speaker: What was interesting is that she was coming home from church, walking home from church, my mother used to walk home from church, a two mile walk… Can we talk about the local historian? What do you all think about him?
Speaker: He said he wasn’t professionally trained, no kidding… What kind of conversation do you have with someone like that, that claims to be the local historian?
Audience: Don’t, One sided.
Audience Member: He said history from his perspective it was ‘alleged,’ it was never proven.
Speaker: He did say alleged. He did not even give her [Recy] the benefit of the doubt… The Ph.D. from Yale, she, she said something about black men. And the question that I raised: are black men now in a position to protect their daughters?
Audience Member: They can’t even protect themselves when they are driving on the highway.
Speaker: And that’s the truth. Are we friends? Are blacks and whites now friends? The guy from Alabama said that we are? Are we friends in Winston-Salem?
Audience: ‘No.’ ‘Sometimes.’ ‘Yeah!’
Audience Member: The rural and urban communities are sort of different. When I used to visit my cousin in South Carolina, there are white folk next door. You spoke, you may borrow sugar, but that was it. You didn’t go to church together, you didn’t go to the movie together and you didn’t do anything else, but we’re friends enough to get sugar.
Speaker: Right. Right.
Audience Member: So that was a friend.
Speaker: Yes. Yes. Okay.
Audience Member: But, it wasn’t a friend.
Speaker: It was a friend, but it wasn’t a friend. Right… there are different definitions of friend. Like I said, there are so many layers to this and I’m trying to race through, but I found it interesting that they always tried to label her [Recy] as a prostitute or a whore as if that could justify what they did to her. And, the poor Sheriff couldn’t get his story straight…I was very disappointed. I knew where that Attorney General’s report was going. I knew where he was going, but I was very disappointed that they didn’t peel back the layers just a little bit more and give more credibility to Recy’s story. I knew what the Grand Jury was going to do because I knew who was there and where they were going and… it was a no win situation. Let’s see, I was really tickled with Hugo, the next door neighbor that said he wasn’t there…he was one of the early ones that she [Recy] had identified. The [Recy’s] brother said, ‘Back then, we knew where our places were.’ Do we know where our place is now? What are our places? What were our places back then? What was he referring to? ‘Keep your mouth shut!’ and ‘Be seen and not heard.’
Audience Member: We know where they’re expected to be.
Speaker: What is the expectation?
Audience Member: What has changed is the real question?
Speaker: We have a point up here.
Audience Member: In corporate America – be seen and not heard.
Audience: Even outside of corporate America, you must know your place… you have to switch gears and know…
Speaker: It’s called survival… wasn’t there a picture from Ferguson? That was a contemporary picture..
Speaker: It’s a magnificent powerful film, it touches your heart… we are all committed to the plight of our sisters, regardless of color, there is a whole lot going on right now with sexual assault… this is a very important film!
Blog Post and Photography (of speaker at a/perture cinema) by Kristen M. Bryant