Recy Taylor died in December 2017 at the age of 97. Back in 1944, Taylor was kidnapped at gunpoint and raped by six white men while walking home from a church in Abbeville, Alabama. Although the men were arrested, they were never prosecuted.
“The attack, like many involving black victims during the Jim Crow era in the South, never went to trial. Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men, even though one of them had confessed,” reports the New York Times.
Over the next several years of her life, Taylor became an “outspoken advocate for victims of sexual assault,” according to The Hill.
Just before her death, a documentary called “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” was released.
“Many ladies got raped. The peoples there — they seemed like they wasn’t concerned about what happened to me, and they didn’t try and do nothing about it. I can’t help but tell the truth of what they done to me,” Taylor said in the film.
Recy has been described as an “American hero” who “spoke up in the face of racism, hate and sexual violence,” by Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell. You can read her story in full here.
Sewell is bringing Recy’s granddaughter, Mary Joyce Owens, as his guest to the State of the Union address on January 30.
“While she is no longer with us today, I think Recy Taylor would be proud to know that her granddaughter, Mary Joyce Owens, is attending the State of the Union in honor of her legacy and our ongoing fight against racism and sexual misconduct. By standing up to injustice over six decades ago, Recy Taylor inspired generations of men and women to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable. Mary Joyce Owens’ presence at the State of the Union is a symbol of the bravery of all those who are speaking out and a reminder that we will not be silent in the face of injustice,” Sewell said in a statement.
In addition to Owens’ presence at the State of the Union address, the Democratic Women’s Working Group have decided to wear all black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement. According to The Hill, female members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will be wearing red pins that say “Recy” and will be inviting colleagues to do the same.
Last month, Oprah Winfrey shared Taylor’s story during her speech at the Golden Globes.
“She lived, as we all have lived, too many in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up,” Winfrey said during her speech. Winfrey’s words were met with a standing ovation, and her speech, which many found to be inspirational, led to calls for her to run for president in 2020.
“I hope Recy Taylor died, knowing that her truth, like so many other women who were tormented in those years, even now tormented, goes marching on,” Winfrey added.
You can watch Winfrey’s speech in the video below.
President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address begins at 9 p.m. Eastern.