Why Oprah’s Visit to Recy Taylor’s Grave Matters

@Oprah screenshot via Instagram
@Oprah screenshot via Instagram

Before there was #MeToo, there was Recy Taylor, a black woman living in Alabama who was gang-raped by white supremacists in 1944—the height of the Jim Crow era.

Taylor died late last year, but not before her story—and her long fight for justice—began to receive the national attention it so richly deserved. Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey paid tribute to Taylor in a rousing Golden Globes speech that has been watched at least 9 million times.

But Winfrey wasn’t done paying homage to the civil rights pioneer.


Late Tuesday night, Winfrey posted a photo to her Instagram account showing her at Taylor’s gravesite in Abbeville, Ala.

“I don’t believe in coincidences, but if I did, this would be a powerful one,” Winfrey wrote. “On assignment for 60 Minutes, I end up in the town of Abbeville, where Recy Taylor suffered injustice, endured and recently died.”

Winfrey expressed gratitude for being able to visit her grave “so soon after ‘speaking her name.’”


Speaking to the Associated Press about why the visit meant a lot to her, Winfrey noted that she didn’t even know who Taylor was until a couple of years ago.

“One of the reasons I wanted to use her as a part of my Golden Globes speech is I wanted everybody to know that the #MeToo movement didn’t just start now,” Winfrey said. “There have been women who have endured, women who have not only survived but thrived in the face of injustices for years. And that her case is one that never found justice.


“Her story is our story,” she added.

In the scramble to anoint Winfrey as the next president and savior of the United States (and then, hours later, disqualify her for a position she never formally announced an interest in), the acknowledgment of Taylor was buried.


The collective mainstream amnesia to Taylor’s story was a predictable, if not altogether unsurprising, turn of events. Still, if the rest of the world was happy to leave Taylor as a footnote in a glittering, uplifting speech, Winfrey’s visit reminds us where the media mogul’s heart is.

More than that, her visit relays an important message that is worth repeating: Our forebears are worthy of remembrance and tribute, and if we don’t practice this publicly and often, then who will?

Staff writer, The Root.

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