The Rape of Recy Taylor

By Anita Estell

Filmmaker Nancy Buirski has produced a compelling and historically relevant documentary profiling rape survivor Recy Taylor and the intervention of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. In 1944, Taylor, a young married black woman walking home from church, was gang raped by a group of white adolescents in Abbeville, Alabama.   The NAACP learned of the case and sent the chief investigator on such issues, Rosa Parks, to assist. Taylor identified the assailants and Parks assisted in ensuring the story was publicized widely. Even so, no formal charges were ever brought by authorities against the offenders.

The film is relevant because it (1) preserves an important story that provides some context for the multiple burdens that black women and other women of color have carried because of race, gender and class; (2) shares a factual narrative that disrobes the most perverse details of sexual harassment in the US – and that is how black women systemically have been brutalized in every way; and (3) describes how violence against black women in the South helped to launch the Civil Rights movement — The Recy Taylor Story occurred more than one decade before Parks took a seat to take a defiant stand that ultimately led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955.

Buirski also is known her awarding work as director, producer and writer of The Loving Story, the documentary film about an interracial couple that sought to get married in the state of Virginia. The film follows the Lovings and the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia. This case invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.