Nearly 70 years after Recy Taylor was raped by a gang of white men, leaders of the rural southeast Alabama community where it happened apologized Monday, acknowledging her attackers escaped prosecution because of racism and an investigation bungled by police.
"It is apparent that the system failed you in 1944," Henry County probate judge and commission chairwoman JoAnn Smith told several of Taylor's relatives at a news conference at the county courthouse. Taylor, 91, lives in Winter Haven and did not attend. Family members said she was in poor health and was not up to traveling to Abbeville or speaking with reporters.
Taylor, who is black, told the Associated Press last year that she believes the men who attacked her are dead, but she would still like an apology from the state. The AP does not typically identify victims of sexual assault but is using her name because she has publicly identified herself.
Taylor was 24, married and living in her native Henry County when she was gang-raped in Abbeville. She was walking home from church when she was abducted, assaulted and left on the side of the road in an isolated area.
Two all-white, all-male grand juries declined to bring charges. Democratic state Rep. Dexter Grimsley of Newville said police bungled the investigation and harassed Taylor. "I would like to extend a deep, heartfelt apology for the error we made here in Alabama," he said. "It was so unkind. We can't stand around and say that it didn't happen."
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 released last year.