WASHINGTON — Recy Taylor has a picture of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in the living room of her home in Florida. She never imagined she would visit the Obamas’ house in Washington.
Taylor was touring the nation’s capital a month after her home state of Alabama apologized to her for never bringing to justice the men who were accused of kidnapping and assaulting her in the 1940s.
She took her first trip to Washington to attend a forum at the National Press Club about late civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who championed Taylor’s cause as a field caseworker with the NAACP.
In 1944, Taylor was a 24-year-old wife and mother living in Abbeville, Ala. Seven white men kidnapped and sexually assaulted her and then left her on the side of a road. Two grand juries, made up of white men, refused to indict anyone.
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault but is using Taylor’s name because she has publicly identified herself.
Last month, Alabama lawmakers offered Taylor, now 91, an apology for how her case was handled. Officials from her native Henry County and the mayor of Abbeville apologized to her in March.
Taylor didn’t see the Obamas during her White House tour May 12 but called the executive mansion “beautiful.” The Vermeil Room with its portraits of past first ladies was one of her favorites.
The nation’s capital is a contrast to Taylor’s hometown, a small southeast Alabama community.
“It’s a lot more to see than Abbeville,” she said, with a laugh. “Everything is different.”
Taylor traveled back to Abbeville a week earlier to receive the state resolution of apology on Mother’s Day at Rock Hill Holiness Church. She had been walking from the church after service when she was kidnapped 67 years ago.
“That was a good day to present it to me,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I
didn’t know they was going to do it.”
Taylor said she keeps the resolution at home in a trunk with other special items. “I try to keep it where I won’t never lose it,” she said.
Mary Owens, Taylor’s granddaughter, accompanied her on the trip. She called Taylor a “hidden hero” and a “woman of integrity.”
“She has overcome,” Owens said.