Oprah Winfrey, billionaire motivational speaker, author, actress, filmmaker, philanthropist, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, whisper-milled potential presidential candidate and television personality made stops in parts of southeast Alabama Tuesday to pay respects to civil rights icon Recy Taylor.
Winfrey stopped in Dothan and visited Taylor’s grave in Abbeville, Alabama. Abbeville is about 30 miles north of Dothan or 27 miles south of Eufaula.
Recy Taylor was kidnapped and raped by a gang of six white men while on the way home from a church in Abbeville in 1944. When she reported the assault, police did little. Nobody was arrested.
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News of the assault, and the police department’s inaction, spread across the country, leading to attention from the NAACP and Rosa Parks. Two grand juries were called, and even after a damning confession, nobody was ever indicted or convicted.
Taylor had remained “a symbol of racial injustice and sexual violence against black women until her death,” according to her obituary in the Washington Post.
The state of Alabama made a formal apology to Recy Taylor, her family and friends in 2011 for its “morally abhorrent and repugnant” failure to prosecute her attackers. She lived to the age of 97 and died in Abbeville on Dec. 28, 2017.
Winfrey spoke about Taylor’s case at her landmark speech at the 15th Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 7.
“Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up,” Winfrey said.
“Their time is up. And I just hope—I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on.”
Winfrey arrived in Dothan and Abbeville as part of a piece for 60 Minutes. “She’s an icon,” said Dothan resident Jessica Smith told the Dothan Eagle. “She wasn’t trying to bring any attention to herself with the visit. She’s just out to make a difference.”
Winfrey told WTVY visiting Taylor’s hometown was powerful for her.
“I could feel the energy and spirit and presence of her with me as I spoke her name out loud. To be able to be in her town and stand at her grave today was really quite an honor,” she told the station.