THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR — Review by Cate Marquis

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recy taylor posterNancy Biurski’s timely documentary tells a personal story, of one woman’s brutal rape in 1944 rural Alabama, but then ties her individual experience to the larger themes of history, racism, sexism, white supremacy and patriarchy, in compelling and often surprising ways. Inspired in part by the 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” by Danielle L. McGuire, director Nancy Biurski skillfully blends the various elements into a documentary that is fascinating, informative and moving. Continue reading…

In 1944, Recy Taylor was pretty 24-year-old black woman, a respectable married mother of one, who was returning home from church one evening, accompanied by two other people. She was stopped by six white teen-aged boys in a truck, who kidnapped her at gun point and then raped her so brutally she could no longer have children. The documentary follows the attempt to bring her attackers to justice, first by Recy’s family, and then the NAACP and Rosa Parks, against a historical backdrop that includes a host of black newspapers and public outcry from the black community.

The film opens by noting the remarkably high number of black women who have been raped by white men throughout this country’s history, going back to slavery. It also points out the role black newspapers and so-called “race” movies, made for black audiences, generally played as the only outlet for information on those crimes.

Clips of “race” films from directors such as Oscar Micheaux are sprinkled throughout this well-made, intelligent and emotionally-powerful film. The documentary uses Recy Taylor’s harrowing story to tell a larger one. Interviews with Recy Taylor’s brother and sister, scholars, a local historian of the town, are woven in with archival footage and stills, painting a well-rounded, historically-grounded but emotionally-powerful documentary. Using the example of what happened to Recy Taylor’s (who also appears in the film), it highlights little known facts about women in the Civil Rights movement and brings the long-ago events into focus in light of recent events.

This excellent film could not be more timely nor more thought-provoking on the critical topic of women’s right to move about the world unmolested, and to be believed when they speak up.

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