This past week, some Americans tuned in to watch the State of the Union. There was also countless protests such as refusing to watch it by the public and being absent from the whole event all together for some politicians. Protests from inside were also common, such as some politicians in attendance bringing activists or guests that represent movements that challenge the current administration’s views. Some guests included several young immigrants, sexual assault survivors, and individuals from the science community. These groups represented immigration, sexual assault, and environmental health, just a few topics that the administration has been uncharacteristically silent about. During his speech, many Democrats chose not to stand or clap as the rest of the room did.
Among these demonstrations, a particular one was unknown to some. This being the red button that had the name “Recy” on it. Admittedly, this had been the first time I’d ever seen the button so I didn’t know what it meant, but I was intrigued. With further research, I learned about a strong brave woman that – like the button displaying her namesake – was unknown to some. Oprah even mentioned Recy in her Globes speech. The Recy buttons can be viewed as supporting the Me Too movement while also bringing light to a sexual assault survivor’s story that most don’t know about.
The name Recy on the button is Recy Taylor. Taylor was an African-American sharecropper who lived in Alabama during the Civil Rights Era. In 1944 while walking home from church with a friend, a car with US Army Herbert Lovett private pulled up beside them. Lovett made a false allegation against Taylor, who at the time was 24. The allegation was impossible, considering she’d been with friends the whole day. Lovett and six other men with him forced Taylor in their car. They drove off with Taylor at gunpoint, demanding her to strip where all seven men including Lovett then proceeded to rape her.
The friends walking home with Taylor immediately reported the incident to police including the car that the men drove in. The car belonged to Hugo Wilson who even admitted to picking up Taylor in the car. He also named six other men; Dillard York, Billy Howerton, Herbert Lovett, Luther Lee, Joe Culpepper and Robert Gamble. Even though he admitted to picking up Taylor, he blamed the rape on the other men. There were three eyewitnesses who even confirmed Wilson was the driver, yet police didn’t bring the six other men in for questioning and only charged Wilson a fine. This sparked outrage in the African-American community, this also led to threats on Taylor and her family by white supremacists.
After hearing about the incident, the NAACP Montgomery chapter sent down Rosa Parks, one of their best activists against sexual assault. She investigated Taylor’s case and reported back to Montgomery to help create more support for Taylor. Parks created enough support that Taylor’s case went to trail. Although having witnesses being her friends who were with her at the time of the attack, Taylor was never provided a police lineup so she could not name her attackers. The jury was an all-white all-male jury that later dismissed the case citing there was not enough evidence provided. Years after, Taylor still got threats from many white supremacists in the area. They targeted Taylor’s family so much that they had to relocate to a family’s home for more protection.
Recy Taylor never got her justice and just died earlier this year. None of the men involved in the assault were charged for their crimes. It wasn’t until 2011 that the state of Alabama issued a formal apology to Taylor and her family. Her story of failing to get justice is the very reason the Me Too movement started. Many survivors are silenced and their stories are never heard, the Me Too movement encourages these brave individuals to come forward to take back their voice and narrative. Recy Taylor was a brave woman who is an inspiration to show that even experiencing something as traumatic as this, she never faltered and wanted her story to be told.