Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Alabama House Issues Apology after Historian Tells Woman's Story

There are many ways for scholarship to have an impact on society. 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 the Black Power Movement by Danielle McGuire, published in September, 2010, has had an important one.

McGuire told the story of Mrs. Recy Taylor in At the Dark End of the Street. In 1944, six white men kidnapped Mrs Taylor, a 24-year-old black woman, a married mother and a sharecropper. The men then gang raped Taylor at knife point.

The law did not come to Mrs. Taylor's aid. Two all-white, all-male grand juries in Abbeville, Alabama, where the attack took place, refused to indict the suspects.

Subsequently, some of the accused admitted guilt. Still, nothing happened.

Decades later, as a result of publicity surrounding McGuire's book, an African-American state legislator initiated an effort to apologize to Mrs. Taylor for the miscarriage of justice that occurred in 1944. His colleagues joined the effort. The Alabama House unanimously passed a resolution expressing its "deepest sympathies and solemn regrets" to Mrs. Recy Taylor. The resolution calls the fact that the suspects were not brought to trial "morally abhorrent and repugnant."

Mrs. Taylor is now 91 and in ill health. She is "very pleased" by the apology.

The Alabama Senate will next consider the resolution; it is expected to pass in that chamber, as well.

For more on the resolution, see here. For an illuminating interview with Mrs. Taylor's brother, Robert Corbitt, see here. In the interview, Corbitt comments: "So thank God for Danielle [McGuire]. [T]he book, I tell you that really straightened out all the lies that the police had told, about all those guys."