9 Disturbing Facts About Sexual Violence Against Our Women Under Jim Crow

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Rape Used as a Weapon of Terror

McGuire also wrote that rape against Black women was used during the Jim Crow era as an extension from how “African-Americans tested their freedom during Reconstruction.” As a result, “former slaveholders and their sympathizers used rape as a ‘weapon of terror’ to dominate the bodies and minds of African-American men and women.”


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Black Women Were Not Silent

Many Black women during Jim Crow spoke out against these disturbing atrocities. “Decades before radical feminists in the women’s movement urged rape survivors to ‘speak out,’ African-American women’s public protests galvanized local, national, and even international outrage and sparked larger campaigns for racial justice and human dignity,” states McGuire. “When Recy Taylor spoke out against her assailants and Rosa Parks and her allies in Montgomery mobilized in defense of her womanhood in 1944, they joined this tradition of testimony and protest.”

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Betty Jean Owens Raped by Four White Men

In 1959, in Tallahassee, Florida, Florida A&M University student Betty Jean Owens was kidnapped and gang-raped by four white men. Owens was raped seven times. Unlike Taylor’s rapists, Owens’ rapists served life sentences.

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Retelling of the Story of the Civil Rights Movement

What Black women experienced during Jim Crow such as rape and sexual violence reveals how the story of the civil rights movement must be retold.

McGuire states:

“The real story that the civil rights movement is also rooted in African-American women’s long struggle against sexual violence has never before been written. The stories of black women who fought for bodily integrity and personal dignity hold profound truths about the sexualized violence that marked racial politics and African American lives during the modern civil rights movement.”

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