Ala House apologizes for handling of 1944 rape

AP News
Posted: Mar 29, 2011 10:39 PM
Ala House apologizes for handling of 1944 rape

The Alabama House has reached back into history and apologized for how authorities mishandled the 1944 rape of a young black woman by a gang of white men as she walked home from church.

The House on Tuesday approved by an apparent unanimous voice vote a resolution that expresses "deepest sympathies and solemn regrets" to Recy Taylor, who is now 91 years old and lives in Florida.

She was 24 when she was confronted by seven men who forced her into their car at knife and gunpoint and drove her to a deserted grove of trees where six of the men raped her in Abbeville in southeastern Alabama. Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the suspects.

Her 74-year-old brother, Robert Corbitt, who still lives in Abbeville, said he was happy his sister was finally going to get what she wanted _ an apology.

The strongly worded resolution said the failure of Alabama law enforcement and the court system to prosecute the crimes "was, and is "morally abhorrent and repugnant."

It was introduced by freshman Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville. It now goes to the Senate, where Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, who also represents Abbeville, said he expects it to pass.

"The most important thing is to say we are sorry and we hope you are doing well. ... It's important we move on in Alabama," Beasley said.

Her story, along with those of other black women attacked by white men during the civil rights era, is told in "At the Dark End of the Street," a book by Danielle McGuire, a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. Activists including Rosa Parks took up their cause, but their efforts were later overshadowed by other civil rights battles.

"It was such a miscarriage of justice," McGuire said Tuesday after hearing Alabama had passed the apology resolution. "It can't hurt that Alabama now recognizes what happened."

Grimsley said he plans to personally present the resolution to Taylor, possibly in April when she is expected to visit Abbeville.

Grimsley said he was pleased that his resolution received no opposition.

"It shows we're all here together in a common goal. It was just the right thing to do," Grimsley said.

The House resolution comes a little more than a week after Abbeville Mayor Ryan Blalock and Henry County Probate Judge JoAnn Smith issued personal apologies to Taylor.

Corbitt said his sister is not well enough to be interviewed, but that he has talked to her recently and she was pleased to hear about the apologies from the local officials.

"She's very pleased with what's been going on," Corbitt said.

Taylor told The Associated Press in an interview last year that she believes the men who attacked her are dead, but she would still like an apology from the state. The AP is using her name because she has publicly identified herself.