An Alabama legislator wants the state to apologize to a black woman raped in 1944 by a group of white men who later avoided prosecution.
Democratic state Rep. Dexter Grimsley of Newville says he is preparing a resolution apologizing to Recy Taylor, who was 24-years-old and living in her native Henry County when she was gang-raped in Abbeville. Two all-white, all-male grand juries declined to bring charges.
Grimsley said he believes police bungled the investigation and harassed Taylor. The married woman was walking home from church when she was kidnapped, raped and left on the side of the road in an isolated rural area.
Taylor, now 91, told The Associated Press in an interview last year that she believes the men are dead, but she would still like an apology from the state. The AP is using her name because she has publicly identified herself.
Taylor's younger brother, Robert Corbitt of Abbeville, said he remembers the day his sister was raped 67-years ago "like it was yesterday." He said police tried to blame his sister, and the family was harassed so that he was not allowed to play in the front yard.
"What hurt my sister so is that she was a Christian lady and had never been through anything like this. She was a nice Christian lady, and this changed everything," Corbitt said.
He said police tried to make it look like Taylor was a prostitute.
"It hurt her to be lied on like that," Corbitt said. He said his sister was not healthy enough to be interviewed Wednesday.
In the interview last year with The AP, she said she eventually gave up trying to bring charges against the men and moved with her family to central Florida.
"I felt like if I tried to push it, to try to get them put in jail, I thought maybe it would be bad on me, so I just left town," Taylor said last year.
Taylor was one of the black women highlighted in the book "At The Dark End of the Street" by Danielle McGuire, a history professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. McGuire's book highlighted the cases of women who endured unwanted sexual encounters from white men during the days of segregation in the south.
The case got the attention of NAACP activist Rosa Parks in the 1940s, a decade before she became an icon by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. Parks interviewed Taylor in 1944 in Abbeville and later recruited other activists to create the "Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor."
McGuire said Wednesday that some of the men admitted to the assault, and the case drew the attention of Alabama's then segregationist Gov. Chauncey Sparks. Sparks feared the case would bring the state bad publicity and ordered a new investigation after the first grand jury declined to indict any of the men. After the investigation ordered by Sparks, a second grand jury also refused to issue any indictments.
She said she would like to see Grimsley's resolution pass in the House and Senate.
"It would be an acknowledgement that this happened and that the state played a role in letting this happen," McGuire said.
Grimsley said he became interested in the case partly because of a petition on the website change.org calling for the state to apologize to Taylor. More than 2,300 people have signed that petition.