Historical marker documenting Rosa Parks’s investigation of Recy Taylor’s attack stolen

published on November 8, 2012  |  Read more  |  Comment

From the Dothan Eagle August 29, 2012: 

Aug. 29–Henry County Sheriff’s investigators are looking for information in the theft of a Rosa Parks historical marker. Sheriff William Maddox said it’s the second time his office has investigated the theft of the sign, which was located near an old farmhouse on Alabama Highway 10 near Henry County Road 133 close to Abbeville. Maddox said the sign marked Parks’ childhood residence when she lived on her grandparents’ 260-acre farm. “It’s been missing a couple of weeks,” Maddox said. “What they did is they broke it off and left the post.”

The same sign was stolen four years ago, also during the month of August.

Sheriff’s investigators arrested three Ozark teenagers for the earlier theft after they turned themselves in and showed authorities where to find the sign. According to an earlier Dothan Eagle report, the double sided sign was entitled “Rosa Parks Lived Here.”

The sign had the following background about Parks: She was a civil rights pioneer born on Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee. Shortly after her birth, her parents James and Leona Edwards McCauley moved to a 260-acre farm owned by her grandparents, Anderson and Louisa McCauley. Her father, a builder, designed and constructed the Henry County training school for black students in 1914. After a few years in Henry County, Rosa and her mother moved to Pine Level to live with her maternal grandparents, while her father went north seeking new building opportunities.

On the opposite side the sign said Rosa McCauley married Richard Parks of Pine Level in 1932. She returned to Henry County in 1944 on behalf of the NAACP to investigate the alleged rape of a young black mother by seven white youths. Rosa McCauley Parks gained national attention on Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery public bus to a white man. Her refusal to go to the back of the bus sparked a successful bus boycott that earned Rosa McCauley Parks the title of “mother of the civil rights movement” in America. She died at her home in Detroit on Oct. 24, 2005.

Anyone with information about the theft of the marker can call Henry County Crime Stoppers at 334-585-5200 and the Henry County Sheriff’s Office 334-585-3131.”

UPDATE: Apparently some DOT lawn mowers damaged the sign and it was removed so that it could be fixed. The Dothan Eagle reported on September 12 that the sign had been returned. 

Recy Taylor honored at the National Press Club in Washington DC

published on May 14, 2011  |  Read more  |  Comment

On Thursday, I went to Washington DC to honor Recy Taylor and to “reintroduce” Rosa Parks as a militant detective and fierce activist for human dignity and civil rights at the National Press Club. We started the day with a private tour of the White House, which was incredibly moving. I first met Recy Taylor the same day Barack Obama was inaugurated as President and Michelle Obama became the First Lady. I never thought we would be in the White House together and I’m pretty sure she never expected to be there, either; especially as a guest of honor. That evening, Ms. Taylor got to see just how many people have been inspired by her courageous testimony and bold truth-telling since she was kidnapped and assaulted in 1944. Taylor, 91, wept as the standing-room-only crowd at the National Press Club celebrated her  tenacity and strength and recognized her as a civil rights heroine. “I never lived in a way that nobody cared about my feelings,” she said.”I never lived that kind of life, but I always wanted it. Now I believe that a lot of people care about me and that makes me feel good.” Seeing her cry broke my heart and made me proud at the same time–all I ever wanted in writing the book was to make history recognize Taylor’s (and the other women I write about) humanity and get justice if I could–even if that only meant documenting the crimes committed by white men against black women and black women’s testimony and resistance. So that it was part of American history. But this history is painful and I feel terrible about digging up past wounds and buried shame. At the same time, it’s so important. I think this event showed me–as I’ve always known–that history has consequences and it really matters. It affects real people and their lives. In this case, I hope that the history I’ve researched and written about wil, in some small way, benefit Ms. Taylor and the women who share her history.

See photos of the event and Mrs. Taylor or the album on the At the Dark End of the Street facebook page.

The Alabama Legislature Officially Apologizes to Recy Taylor

published on April 28, 2011  |  Read more  |  Comment

Here’s the article by Bob Johnson and Errin Haines at the AP:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Legislature has officially apologized to an elderly black woman who was raped nearly seven decades ago by a gang of white men as she walked home from church.

The Senate gave final approval Thursday on a voice vote to a resolution that expresses “deepest sympathy and deepest regrets” to Recy Taylor, now 91 and living in Florida. She told The Associated Press last year that she believes the men who attacked her in 1944 are dead but that she still wanted an apology from the state of Alabama.

The House approved the resolution last month. It now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who said Thursday he’s not personally familiar with details of the case, but sees no reason why he wouldn’t sign it.

Reached by phone Thursday by the AP, Taylor said she welcomed the Legislature’s action.

“I think that’s nice,” she said. “It’s been a long time. I’m satisfied.”

The resolution by Democratic state Rep. Dexter Grimsley of Newville says the failure to prosecute the men was “morally abhorrent and repugnant.” He has said police bungled the investigation and harassed Taylor, and local leaders recently acknowledged that her attackers escaped prosecution in part because of racism.

The AP does not typically identify victims of sexual assault but is using her name because she has publicly identified herself.

Taylor was 24 when she was confronted by seven men who forced her into their car at knife- and gun- point and drove her to a deserted grove of trees where six of the men raped her in Abbeville in southeastern Alabama. She was then left on the side of the road in an isolated area.

Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the suspects after the attack. Recy Taylor’s brother, 74-year-old Robert Corbitt, said law enforcement authorities tried to blame the attack on his sister. He said his family was threatened after the attack, his sister’s house was firebombed and his father had to guard the house.

“I’m so glad they (the Legislature) decided to do the right thing,” Corbitt said.

Corbitt said Taylor is in poor health, but he hopes she will come back to Abbeville by Mother’s Day in May. Grimsley said he hopes to present her with a copy of the resolution at that time.

Taylor said officials in Abbeville expressed regret that she was not present earlier this year when her hometown issued an apology in the case.

“Since I wasn’t there, they said they should’ve had somebody on the phone to let me know that they were sorry about the length of time that it’s been,” she said. “I don’t even know what they said. They said they did the wrong thing.”

Taylor has returned to Abbeville frequently since moving to Florida more than 30 years ago and said she expects to visit her brother there next month. She is not sure she will feel differently now that the town has apologized.

“A lot of people have gone on,” she said. “There’s nobody to fear there now.”

There was no opposition to the resolution in the Legislature and no debate in the Senate before Thursday’s vote.

“The family deserves someone to say that was a tragedy and the lady was done wrong,” said Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, chairman of the Rules Committee that asked the Senate to approve the resolution.

Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley, whose district includes Abbeville, said Taylor wanted an apology and the Senate wanted to provide one.

“The state of Alabama apologizes for the incident that occurred to Mrs. Taylor many years ago, and we wish God’s speed for her and continued best wishes,” Beasley said.

Grimsley said the apology shows Alabama officials were able to do the right thing on a racial matter.

“I think it’s going to take things like this for the state to move forward” from the racial turmoil of the past, he said.

Grimsley said he pushed the apology through the Legislature for Taylor.

“I just knew I had to do something for her while she’s still here,” he said.

Taylor’s 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 the causes of Taylor and others, but their efforts were later overshadowed by other civil rights battles.


Recy Taylor’s Brother: Rape Apology to Give ‘Closure’

published on April 5, 2011  |  Read more  |  Comment

This is an excellent article by Cynthia Gordy, a journalist at the


Recy Taylor hadn’t asked for much. More than six decades after she was raped by six white men in her hometown of Abbeville, Alabama – a horrific crime that the sheriff’s department covered up, never to speak of again – she wasn’t interested in reopening the case or pressing charges. Taylor, now 91 years old, just thought an apology was in order.

On Tuesday the Alabama House finally acted. By a unanimous voice vote, the body passed a resolution apologizing for the state’s failure to pursue justice for Taylor, who was a 24-year-old sharecropper in 1944 when she was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint. An all-white jury in Jim Crow-era Alabama refused to indict her assailants. A subsequent investigation initiated by the governor’s office elicited some admissions of guilt, but without an indictment in the county in which the crime took place, the case couldn’t go forward.

Expressing “deepest sympathies and solemn regrets,” the resolution called the state’s response “morally abhorrent and repugnant.” It now moves to the Senate. The resolution comes a week after Abbeville Mayor Ryan Blalock and Henry County Probate Judge JoAnn Smith held a press conference apologizing to Taylor’s family for the way she was treated. The influx of attention has came as a bit of a shock.

“I couldn’t believe it happened so fast,” Taylor’s 74-year-old brother, Robert Corbitt, who lives in Abbeville, told The Root. After working tirelessly for years, to no avail, for government officials to even recognize that the crime happened, he says he’s grateful for the recent surge of activity.

“Sometimes Recy’s not fully aware of what’s going on, and she has her good days and bad days,” he said. “But when I told her about the resolution last night she was very happy. At first she thought it had gone completely through, but I told her, ‘No, next it has to go through the Senate.’ But I’m very confident.”

Last month The Root wrote about Recy Taylor’s brutal assault, which sparked a Rosa Parks-led justice movement in the 1940s before all but disappearing from history over the years. Word of her story continued to spread through a petition calling on government officials to issue apologies for Taylor.

But the case was first pushed back into the spotlight by historian Danielle McGuire, who featured Taylor in her book 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 Black Power.McGuire and Taylor will both attend a Washington, D.C. event this May at the National Press Club, “Reintroducing Rosa,” examining the role that black women fighting sexual violence played throughout the civil rights movement.

“This couldn’t have happened without Danielle McGuire, The Root, and Colorlines. Your articles really put a lot of pressure on the officials,” said Corbitt, adding that days after The Root piece he started getting phone calls from people all across the country. “They were amazed by the story they’d read, and some of the calls were from people right here in Abbeville who never knew what happened. Most of them were white, and they felt so badly and wanted to apologize.”

Corbitt says that while the Alabama House resolution doesn’t give the family a full measure of justice, the regrets issued by the government mean a great deal to them.

“It means that we have some closure,” he said. “What hurt Recy maybe more than anything was the lies that were told on her. These men admitted that they kidnapped and raped her, but law enforcement said it didn’t happen. Not only that, they tried to say she was a prostitute when she was a Christian lady. Things like that really bothered her, so she’s gotten some closure in the apology.”

Just having the story acknowledged at all carries a huge weight. With the county courthouse swept clean of records on Taylor’s assault, Corbitt donated a copy of McGuire’s book to the local library when it came out last fall.

“Now the library has bought another copy, but the books are never there because they’re checked out all the time,” he said proudly. “People know all about it now.”

Cynthia Gordy is the Washington reporter for The Root. Follow her onTwitter.

Read more about Recy Taylor on, including ourinterview with her.

The Civil Rights Cold Case Project Takes Note of AL Apology to Recy Taylor

published on April 5, 2011  |  Read more  |  Comment

The Alabama House made an historic move Tuesday (March 29) towards a state apology to Recy Taylor, 91, who was gang raped by 7 white men in Abbeville, Ala., in 1944. The AP reports:

The House on Tuesday approved by an apparent unanimous voice vote a resolution that expresses “deepest sympathies and solemn regrets” to Recy Taylor….

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.

Read the whole article by Ben Greenberg here