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Recy Taylor: A Woman in the Era Before #MeToo

Yesterday, Oprah received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes Awards. She gave a speech that made a profound impact on many, which led to a firestorm of praises on social media.

However, many seem to gloss over the fact that Oprah mentioned a woman named Recy Taylor, who unfortunately died late last year (on December 28th), three days shy of her 98th birthday. When looking at the transcript or even watching videos of Oprah’s speech, it is evident that Oprah clearly made a statement when talking about her.

“And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church.”

What is crucial to understand about her experience was that justice never was served, because the men who had abused her were  never prosecuted. In an era filled with movements such as #MeToo, this brings back the startling experience that many still face today. It demonstrates that we still have so much to improve on and how we still have a long road to go. Winfrey drove home the evident connections of Taylor’s life and our society today:

“She lived as we all have lived, too many in a culture broken by brutally powerful men.”

In an interview with NPR back in 2011, Taylor recalled the aftermath of her experience:

“I hated it happened to me like that, but it just happened to me and I couldn’t help myself… They didn’t try to do nothing about it… And I have to live with it, ’cause I had to live with a lot with going through with this.”

Almost 60 years later, Taylor received a formal apology from the state of Alabama. Historian Danielle McGuire, who is also the author of 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, had personally spent time with Recy Taylor. Her quote sums up the legacy of Taylor accurately:

“Decades before the women’s movement, decades before there were speak-outs or anyone saying ‘me too,’ Recy Taylor testified about her assault to people who could very easily have killed her – who tried to kill her. If she could do that then, with all of that risk and terror surrounding her, then we all need to stand up and say – when we have to – me too.”

In the Weinstein era, it is important to stand in solidarity with our sisters around the world who have survived or are currently surviving these traumatic experiences and to do everything in our power to come together and fight this for our women.

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Tomii Eames is a high school student in California who loves to write at the intersection of societal issues. She is a writer, feminist, and based in the Silicon Valley.

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