Oprah dedicated her rallying acceptance speech at the Golden Globes to the fighters of justice that history tried to forget. Specifically, she expressed gratitude for "the women who have endured years of abuse and assault... whose names we'll never know."
But one particular name came up again and again: Recy Taylor. And her story, explored in Nancy Buirski's 2017 documentary that swept the New York Film Festival, proves why her story could not be more relevant to Hollywood's moment of reckoning.
The Rape of Recy Taylor follows the true story of a young family woman who was gang raped by six white males in 1944 Alabama while walking home from church. They threatened to kill her if she spoke up. Yet, despite the life-threatening risk posed to any black person who stood up for their rights in the Jim Crow south, Taylor did not hesitate to seek justice immediately.
Her unflinching perseverance lead little-known NAACP investigator Rosa Parks to take on her case, which eventually garnered unprecedented public outcry that transcended the strict racial divides of the civil rights era.
"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," Oprah said in her speech. "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."
Though systemic oppression denied Recy justice and minimized her to the margins of civil rights history, women in entertainment are now using their platforms to try and rectify that. Oprah's speech seemed to be partially inspired by Buirski's film, which not only preserved Recy's story in her own words, but spoke to the larger tradition of how black women have always lead the charge on human rights issues in this country — despite facing disproportionate risks for doing so.
From the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott to women of color heading the Black Lives Matter movement and Anita Hill pioneering the legal battle against sexual harassment in the workplace, society's path forward hinges on black women's leadership.
You'll remember that in 2016, 95% of black women voted for Hillary, dwarfing the low 43% of white women who did the same. Yet again in 2017, 98% of black women ensured democratic candidate Doug Jones won the senate seat over accused child molester Roy Moore. Only 31% of white women bothered to join them.
Black women's stories, still infuriatingly kept out of focus in the #MeToo movement, do not just "deserve" to be heard. If history is any indication, their voices will determine whether we succeed in making a lasting change or not.
Oprah put it best at the Globes when she asserted that Recy's story, "was somewhere in Rosa Parks' heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it's here with every woman who chooses to say, 'Me too.'"
Be sure to look out for updates on The Rape of Recy Taylor, which will be showing in select screenings throughout 2018.