Bill Cosby‘s guilty conviction by a Pennsylvania jury Thursday marked a turning point in the fight against predatory sexual violence.
The more than 50 women who came forward about Cosby’s disgusting actions saw the man held accountable in a high-profile case that emboldened activists in the #MeTOO movement. His conviction may inspire many to look back at the often unsung history of Black women who fought to end rape culture.
Here, women who changed history decades ago with their stand against sexual violence:
Recy Taylor‘s Resistance
Taylor, a 24-year-old African-American sharecropper, was abducted and raped by six White men while she walked home from church in Abbeville, Alabama during the night of September 3, 1944. She boldly identified her rapists to police at a time when Black people lived in fear of retaliation by Whites in the Jim Crow South. It was her fight that was an early catalyst for the civil rights movement, setting the stage for the modern-day #MeToo movement.
At the time of Taylor’s fight, Parks, a chief investigator for the NAACP, rallied support for Taylor. In 1931, Parks had fought off a white male neighbor who tried to assault her. She became known as a sexual assault investigator before she refused to give up her seat on a bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Getrude Perkins Turned To NAACP
Perkins, raped by two uniformed police officers in Montgomery in 1949, took her fight to a local reverend who partnered with the NAACP. A Citizens Committee for Gertrude Perkins was formed and included other civil rights groups. Her story was shared before a grand jury, who didn’t indict the officers. However, several ministers in Montgomery rallied to help Perkins and other women.
Flossie Hardman‘s Trial
Hardman, a 15-year-old, was sexually assaulted by her employer in 1951. Though an all-White jury returned a non-guilty verdict after just five minutes of deliberation in Hardman’s case, a boycott of the employer’s grocery store led to the closing of the business. Hardman’s story helped to show the world that a boycott could be a powerful tool of resistance.
Ownes, a Florida A&M student who was brutally assaulted by four White men in 1959, courageously testified against the men in front of an all-White, all-male jury. The four men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, an inaugural move that was a watershed moment and a blow against the silence around White sexual violence against Black women.
Another Black Man Was Thrown Out Of A Restaurant For Just Sitting Down