Recy Taylor, A Valiant Rape Survivor Whose Story Mobilized Black Activism During The Jim Crow Era, Dies At 97

Taylor passed away in her sleep. 

Recy Taylor, the valiant Alabama woman whose kidnapping and rape by six white men in the Jim Crow segregated south mobilized black activists, died on Thursday (Dec. 28). She was 97.

Taylor, who would've celebrated her 98th birthday on Sunday (Dec. 31), passed away in her sleep at a nursing home in her native Abbeville, Ala., NBC News reports. Her story came to prominence more than 70 years ago, when she survived the brutal sexual assault.

On September 3, 1944, Taylor, her friend, Fannie Daniel, and Daniel’s teenage son, were walking home from church when a car of white men pulled up besides them and subsequently forced Taylor into the car at gunpoint. She was blindfolded and driven to a wooded area where she was forced to undress, gang raped, and left on the side of the road.

At the time, Taylor, was a 24-year-old married mother of an infant.

Daniel reported the rape to police, and despite three witnesses identifying the men, no one was arrested. One of the assailants, Hugo Wilson, was identified by Daniel as driving the vehicle and admitted to picking Taylor up, but blamed the rape on the six others: Dillard York, Billy Howerton, Herbert Lovett, Luther Lee, Joe Culpepper and Robert Gamble. Hugo was fined $250 by the town’s sheriff, and never faced charges.

Authorities' decision to ignore Taylor's rape, led to outrage among black residents of Abbeville, and caught the attention of NAACP chapters in Alabama. The civil rights organization dispatched Rosa Parks, who at the time was an Alabama activist against sexual assault of black women, to investigate the case.

Parks, along with the help of other black activists in the state, formed the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor, an organization that rallied national support. In October of 1944, Taylor’s rapists finally went to trial, but a jury of white men voted to dismiss the case, after deliberating for only five minutes.

Thanks to Parks and the tireless work of other freedom fighters, Taylor’s story continued to spread among black media outlets up north, and was later reported by the New York Daily News and Pittsburgh Courier. In addition, activists wrote letters requesting that then Governor Chauncey Sparks investigate Taylor's rape, and he “reluctantly agreed” to do so.

Four of the rapists were interviewed during Sparks’ investigation, and admitted to having sex with Taylor, but lied and said that it was consensual.  However, Culpepper admitted that they were trolling for a woman to attack, and confessed to the horrid rape details that Taylor had already recounted.

Even with Culpepper's confession, a second jury of white men refused to indict Taylor's rapists.

Meanwhile, Taylor courageously faced the second court case amid attempts to smear her credibility by falsely accusing her of being a prostitute. She and her family were subjected to constant mistreatment and death threats from whites in the town. The family feared for their safety for decades after the failed indictment.

Taylor eventually moved to Florida before returning to Abbeville. Finally, in 2011, the Alabama Legislature formally apologized to Taylor for not prosecuting her rapists. Her story is the subject of a new documentary, The Rape of Recy Taylor, where she vividly recalls the sexual assault years later.

“I saw the car pull up behind me,” Taylor says.  “They put me in the car and blindfolded me. I was begging them to leave me alone, don’t shoot me, I’ve got to go home to see about my baby. They wouldn’t let me go.”

Watch the film’s trailer in the video above.

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Breonna Taylor’s Family Vows To Continue Fight For Justice: “Please Keep Saying Her Name”

Breonna Taylor must not be forgotten. The family of the 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March, released a statement encouraging peaceful protests and the continued fight for justice.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear read the statement from Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, on CNN on Friday (May 29).

“Breonna devoted her own life to saving other lives, to helping others, to making people smile, and to bringing people together,” the statement reads. “The last thing she’d want right now is any more violence. Changes are being made, but it’s not enough. We will not stop until there is truth, justice and accountability. Breonna’s legacy will not be forgotten. And it’s because of all of us saying her name and demanding justice. We are saying her name more each day. Thank you.

“Please keep saying her name. Please keep demanding justice and accountability, but let’s do it the right way without hurting each other. We can, and we will make some real change here. Now’s the time. Let’s make it happen.”

Seven people were shot during a protest for Taylor in Louisville on Thursday (May 28). The shooting victims were treated and are in stable condition, according to Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher. Fisher also reposted a video message from Taylor’s family urging peace amid the protests.

A message from Breonna Taylor’s family urging protestors to be peaceful, go home and keep fighting for truth. pic.twitter.com/if5MH5UcCW

— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) May 29, 2020

On March 13, 2020, Louisville police officers kicked in Taylor’s door without warning and opened fire. Authorities claim that they were executing a “no-knock” search warrant stemming from an alleged drug investigation involving another man who did not live in Taylor’s home, and had already been arrested.

“Police just unloaded 25 to 30 rounds, I mean they’re shooting from the front door, they’re shooting from the window, they’re shooting from the patio,” attorney Benjamin Crump told Essence on Friday. “They’re so reckless, they shoot a bullet into the next door neighbor’s apartment where their five-year-old daughter is asleep in her room. “They didn’t even have to come in her [Taylor's] apartment. They already had the person they were searching for in custody.”

Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LMPD accusing the department of excessive force and gross negligence. In wake of Taylor’s murder going public, LMPD has changed its policy and will now require no-knock warrants to have a police chief’s signature. The department also made it mandatory for LMPD officers to wear body cameras.

A 911 call made by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, after the shooting was made public on Thursday. “I don’t know what’s happening somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” Walker can be heard saying through tears. Police arrested Walker for shooting at cops whom he assumed were robbers. The charges were later dropped.

Listen to the emotional 911 call below.

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KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

Fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin Arrested For Murder Of George Floyd

Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested for the murder of George Floyd on Friday (May 29), Hennepin County D.A. Mike Freeman confirmed at a press conference.

“Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and with manslaughter. He has been charged with third-degree murder,” said Freeman.

“There could be more charges later. The investigation is ongoing. We felt it important to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator,” Freeman said when asked if the three additional fired MPD officers will be charged in Floyd’s murder. The third-degree murder charge suggests that Chauvin had no intent to kill Floyd. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Chauvin's arrest follows three days of protests in an around Minneapolis. On Thursday (May 28), the MPD’s third precinct went up in flames.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct has been set on fire pic.twitter.com/h85rjffLgc

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 29, 2020

“We have never charged a case in that time frame. We can only prove a case when we have substantial evidence,” added Freeman who maintained that the timing of the arrest was a result of a final piece of evidence, although he refused to go into detail. “We have now been able to put together the evidence that we needed. Folks, I’m not gonna’ talk specifically about this piece of evidence, or that piece of evidence. You will see.”

Freeman did however state the that evidence collected in the case includes citizen video, officer body cam footage, witness statements, and a “preliminary report” from the medical examiner.

Chauvin was the officer filmed jamming his knee into Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air and pleaded, “Please! Please! I can’t breathe!”

The fatal incident unfolded on Monday (May 25) afternoon. Police were called to Cup Food grocery store after Floyd allegedly tried to use a fraudulent $20 bill. MPD claimed that Floyd resisted arrest but a security camera recording shows him walking calmly in handcuffs while being escorted to a patrol car by an MPD officer.

Video footage release by store owner who stated George did not resist arrest as stated on the police report #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatters pic.twitter.com/aqFzkPmnEp

— Que ™ (@RealQDaKidd) May 27, 2020

Additional footage, recorded by a teenage bystander, captured Floyd's last few minutes alive. Floyd, 46, was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Chauvin may have already known Floyd as they both worked security for the Minneapolis club, El Nueva Rodeo.

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KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

George Floyd’s Family Wants Minneapolis Police Officers Arrested For His Murder

The family of George Floyd are demanding justice after the 46 year old was killed by Minneapolis police earlier in the week. Floyd’s cousin and brothers want the four officers involved to be arrested and convicted of murder.

“We need to see justice happen,” Floyd’s cousin, Tera Brown, told CBS This Morning. “This was clearly murder. We want to see them arrested. We want to see them charged, we want to see them convicted. He did not deserve what happened to him.”

In reactions to the Floyd's murder, tens of thousands of people took to the street in Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities around the country.

“I don’t want the protests to just be for show. I want to see action,” continued Brown. “I want to see these people pay for what they did. We need to hold them accountable.”

Floyd was described as an “amazing” person who was well loved and “never did anything” to anyone. “Everybody loved my brother. I just don’t understand why people want to hurt people, killed people, they didn’t have to do that to my brother,” said his brother, Philonise Floyd.

Two of the four officers involved have been identified as Tou Thao, and Derek Chauvin, the latter of whom is the officer who put his knee in Floyd’s neck as he begged for air and later died. All four officers have been fired.

Former NBA player Steven Jackson took to social media to pay tribute to his longtime friend whom he called his twin. “Floyd was my brother, we called each other twin,” Jackson said in an emotional video. “My boy was doing what he was supposed to do and ya’ll go and kill my brother.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Where we from not many make it out but my Twin was happy I did. I’m gonna continue to make u proud fam. It makes me so angry that after all the things u been through when u get to your best self that they take u out like this. Fuk Rest Easy Twin

A post shared by Stephen Jackson Sr. (@_stak5_) on May 26, 2020 at 7:04pm PDT

Minnesota is no stranger to police brutality. The Star-Tribune published a list of the 193 people who have died “after a physical confrontation with Minnesota police” since the year 2000 (excluding car accidents during police pursuits). The database includes Philando Castile, the 32-year-old cafeteria worker killed by a Minneapolis cop during a traffic stop in 2016. Castile’s murder was the first, and possibly only time, that a Minnesota police officer was criminally charged for killing a civilian, although the former officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted.

Watch the interview with Floyd's family below.

 

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