Rosa Parks is best known for her refusal to give up her bus seat to a White man, thus inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.
But The Washington Post reports that Parks was an advocate long before propelling the historical protest. A decade before sitting her way to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, Parks pioneered a crusade to end sexual assaults on Black women.
The woman who would come to be dubbed “the mother of the freedom movement” had a harrowing experience with an attempted rape by a White neighbor in 1931. The assault led to her to pioneer a nationwide campaign against sexual assault. When a then-24-year-old Alabama woman was gang-raped, the NAACP called on Parks to investigate why the men had yet to face legal ramifications.
The Post reports that in 1944, Recy Taylor was coming from church when a group of seven White men abducted her and took turns raping her.
In a 2011 NPR interview, a 91-year-old Taylor recounted the assault:
“After they messed over and did what they were going to do me, they say, ‘We’re going to take you back. We’re going to put you out. But if you tell it, we’re going to kill you,’ ” she told the outlet.
When Parks went to Taylor’s home in Abbeville, Alabama, to learn more about the attack, she was forced out of the town by a sheriff who stalked around the Taylor’s cabin after the rape.
But that didn’t stop Parks from seeking justice for her. She then founded the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor, which denounced rapes of Black women by White men.
Despite a confession from one of the rapists and the identification of the others involved, none of them was indicted.
Taylor’s injustices are recounted in the documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” which premiered at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 3.