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Video: Powerful, Emotional Speech by Virginia Del. Jackie Hope Glass on Sexual Violence, Gender, Race, Justice and Injustice

Del. Glass tells the story of Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old African-American sharecropper who was raped by six White men in 1944, and how NONE of them were convicted.

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See below for video and a transcript of Del. Jackie Hope Glass (D-Norfolk)’s powerful, emotional speech – on sexual violence, gender, race, justice and injustice – earlier today on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates. For more information on Recy Taylor, see here:

“Recy Taylor (née Corbitt; December 31, 1919 – December 28, 2017)[2]: 297  was an African-American woman from Abbeville in Henry County, Alabama. She was born and raised in a sharecropping family in the Jim Crow era Southern United States. Taylor’s refusal to remain silent about her rape by white men led to organizing in the African-American community for justice and civil rights.

On September 3, 1944, Taylor was kidnapped while leaving church and gang-raped by six white men.[2]: xv–xvii [3][4] Despite the men’s confessions to authorities, two grand juries subsequently declined to indict the men; no charges were ever brought against her assailants.[5]

In 2011, the Alabama Legislature officially apologized on behalf of the state “for its failure to prosecute her attackers.” Taylor’s rape, refusal to remain silent, and the subsequent court cases were among the early instances of nationwide protest and activism among the African-American community, and ended up providing an organizational spark in the civil rights movement.[2]: 39 

At the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, while accepting the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, Oprah Winfrey discussed and brought awareness to Taylor’s story.[6] The Congressional Black Caucus led Democratic Caucus members in wearing red “Recy” pins while attending the 2018 State of the Union, where Taylor’s granddaughter, Mary Joyce Owens, was a guest.[7]”

With that, here’s Del. Glass’ powerful speech – and, of course, thank you to her for sharing this!

“I first want to afford the opportunity for anybody in this space who has experienced primary or secondary trauma due to sexual assault or rape, to make a decision as to whether or not you want to stay in this space or turn down the volume on your computer for my Women’s History speech.

Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old African-American sharecropper, was walking home from church with her friend…in 1944 when six men…forced Recy into a car at gunpoint and drove her to a grove of pine trees on the side of the road, where they forced her to disrobe. And she begged them, saying ‘I have a husband and a three-year-old.’ But [one of the attackers] who was unmoved by this, ordered her to just act like you do with your husband, ‘or I will cut your damn throat.’ He and five other men raped her.  The seventh man…who later said ‘I didn’t take part because I knew Recy.’

Recy survived that moment. And although it was very dangerous for African Americans to speak out against White people during the Jim Crow era, Recy refused to remain silent about her sexual violence. She bravely reported the attack to the police, and the next day her house was set on fire. Recy survived.

The crime was extensively covered by the Black press and an early catalyst for the civil rights movement. The NAACP actually sent a young activist from the Montgomery, AL chapter, Rosa Parks, to investigate. And even though Recy reported the crime, witnesses corroborated her story, one of the men actually confessed, the men were not brought to custody. As a matter of fact, in 1944, an all-white, all-male grand jury heard Recy’s case and after five minutes of deliberation, they dismissed it. The governor took it a step further…a second grand jury was held in 1945. And by that time three more of the men had confessed to raping Recy. But none of them were prosecuted. And although Recy Taylor’s case did not succeed in the short term, her bravery helped mobilize communities and build coalitions that would become pillars of the civil rights movement. 

Now decades passed her case actually gained some more traction, when a publication in 2010 by historian Danielle L. McGuire, a white woman, brought it to light. The book prompted an official apology in 2011 to Recy by the Alabama state legislature, which called the failure to prosecute her attackers ‘morally abhorrent and repugnant.’

And that’s where my brain kind of unbreaks a little bit. For years I sat with my trauma, thinking that I used it for good, but never got to see justice. I held in my hands and my heart that a police officer looked in my eyes and said there was no way to convict my first attacker because it was his word against mine. And when I found two European-American young ladies whose stories predated and mirrored mine with that same attacker, the police department found a way to get a conviction. And a year and a half later, while on active duty serving this great nation, I saw the same thing – my second attacker, no consequences for assaulting me, but when I found another young woman who went through the same thing who was European-American, whose rape also predated mine; she found justice against someone else getting justice from my trauma.

Ladies, we cannot untether our past from our future, but it’s paramount that we move together. And this I’ve learned. I believe that there is justice and just not justice for the identities that I hold up sometimes as a woman and as an American of African descent. You know these two identities, we’re constantly exchanging our trauma for change just like Recy. Because she held hers for 70 years after it happened.

My hope is that at some point our lived experiences and trauma will become a valid reason for equity and for justice. And so, as a first generation post-Jim Crow person, a first generation post-Civil Rights Act, first generation post-Title Nine, and a woman who literally has been assaulted to his success, I tip my hat to Recy Taylor. I salute the women of the Tailhook scandal, because we will continue to be innovative and creative using the tools that are available to us, even when a legal system continuously fails us. Because of Recy’s reporting, her revolutionary rape, this did not happen in vain.”

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