A Forgotten Tragedy Uncovered: ‘The Rape Of Recy Taylor’

Aug 23, 2018

During her speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah introduced many people to Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old sharecropper who was gang raped in 1940s Alabama and risked her life to seek justice. 

Her story was all too familiar to Nancy Buirski, the filmmaker who wrote, directed and produced the film “The Rape of Recy Taylor.” It premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and won the Special Prize for Human Rights.

The film details the rape, the attempts at justice, and what Recy Taylor’s story illuminates about the long legacy of the physical abuse of black women. Nancy Buirski joins host Frank Stasio to talk about the film and her passion for telling and retelling stories of the oppressed.

The Rape of Recy Taylor” will screen at The Carolina Theatre of Durham on Monday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. with a live Q&A to follow with Nancy Buirski. 

Interview Highlights

Nancy Buirski on who is Recy Taylor:

Recy Taylor was a 24-year-old sharecropper, mother and daughter of a nine-month-old infant. And she was walking home from church on a hot summer night in Abbeville, Alabama. A car circled her, came around and circled her again, and then finally grabbed her away from two other people she had been walking with and told her if she didn’t get in the car they were going to kill her.  

On the difference between rapes and lynchings:

Rape was not as visible then as lynching was … The people who were doing the lynching wanted blacks to know it was going on. It was very, very visible. It was a warning. But rapes were different. Rapes were under the radar, and women were told if they spoke up they would lose their lives and their families were in jeopardy.  

On the justice process:

Not to anybody’s surprise, the boys were not indicted. They were being questioned by a grand jury made up of their fathers and their uncles and their peers, so they were let off. But the family would not stop.

On Rosa Parks fight for Recy Taylor and other rape victims:

She had almost been attacked. She actually talks her attacker out of the rape. She uses her incredible brain to convince him this is the wrong thing to do. So she has a personal connection to this.

On Recy’s life after the rape and trial:

Her life is not a good life. It’s not an easy life, and she never got the kind of justice she felt she deserved. Finally, the state [Alabama] does give her an apology … Even that wasn’t enough for her. She knew we were making this movie, and she was very pleased.

On Oprah mentioning Recy Taylor during her Golden Globe speech:

Our entire crew couldn’t believe it. We were thrilled.  It’s the best thing that could’ve happened, not for our film — as much as it did help our film of course — but for Recy Taylor and her legacy.