Rape’s Role in the Civil Rights Movement

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A s I sit here and write this post, my heart is heavy and hurting and for many more reasons than just one. I could go on for days about rape and violence against women, but I want this post to focus more so on our forgotten past as Americans, our forgotten history – or our history that has been declared for us as unimportant and irrelevant when placed in comparison with the major events and people of those times.

I just finished reading and listening to (I did both simultaneously, really) “Hidden Pattern Of Rape Helped Stir Civil Rights Movement,” an NPR “Behind Closed Doors” conversation hosted by Michel Martin. This conversation involved both Recy Taylor, a rape survivor, and Danielle Lynn McGuire, who is the author of 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

Recy Taylor was one of many women whose rape cases led to the infamous bus boycott of 1955. According to the report, Taylor was on her way home from a church revival in 1944 when she was taken by a group of white men who then proceeded to gang rape her. Although she did speak to her father and the local sheriff about the assault right afterward, it seems that nothing was actually done to address the issue and the boys were let off without any punishment whatsoever.

Rosa Parks investigated many rape cases and sexual assaults against black women during this time, including that of Taylor’s. All of these investigations and findings led to various sized campaigns and protests against the terrible crimes, which ultimately paved the way for the Montgomery bus boycott, and helped to further instigate and speed the pace of the Civil Rights Movement.

At this point I’ll stop for a brief second, as I am sure a portion of you are saying, “Wait, what? Rosa Parks? All of this was behind the bus boycott?”

(I also want to make it clear that this is an incredibly brief summarization of the events that seem to have happened from the information I have read thus far. I have not yet read “At the Dark End of the Street” and find myself in no such way to be declared full of knowledge about the topic at hand.)

And that brings me to my confession that, trust me, I had no idea about any of this either.

I’m almost positive that this large part of history has been pretty unexplored by most of us, along with the idea that Rosa Parks was just a passive old lady and not a prominent activist in the movement.

This is where I want to express my disgust and distress over the fact that so many of us know very little about this HUGE part of history. Why? Why have we just skimmed the surface of this vital topic? Why does it seem we have only been given one slice of the history pie (comedic relief…laugh)?

Dr. MLK, Jr. was an amazing man who deserves all the recognition he continues to be given year after year – don’t get me wrong. But, what about Rosa Parks? What about these many women who suffered from these terrible crimes and the many others who protested and staged active campaigns in response and in hopes of a positive outcome and equal rights?

How many of you thought that Rosa Parks just one day was sick of having to move, and decidedly refused to surrender her seat, which then led to a protest?

Perhaps it was just me, but I’m almost positive that this large part of history has been pretty unexplored by most of us, along with the idea that Rosa Parks was just a passive old lady and not a prominent activist in the movement.

So, I invite you to take a gander at some of this history and begin learning a little more about the women of the Civil Rights Movement and their role as important activists, as I feel they are quite often forgotten. Take a listen to this incredible report, and maybe even join me in making it a goal to find the time to read McGuire’s very interesting and significant book!

1 Comment

  1. Debra Grilly says:

    Very, very informative!!!