Through Time: Remembering Black Leaders Who Fought Against Sexual Assault


Sexual violence is all too common issue that has persisted throughout time and extends far beyond any man-made barriers. Globally, more than 700 people have endured sexual violence. In the United States, RAINN reports that an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. With that said, sexual violence extends far beyond conversations about rape and assault. In 2018, a nonprofit by the name of Stop Street Harassment reported that 81% of women endured sexual harassment during their lifetime. Furthermore, 43% of men also endured sexual harassment in their lifetime. Moreover, 1 in about 33 have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Adding on, more than one-fifth of trans and nonconforming college students have also experienced sexual violence. Simply put, sexual violence and harassment is something that effects people of all ages, genders, nationalities and ethnicities.

As this problem persists throughout time, a number of Black leaders have stepped up to fight against this crime. Standing at the forefront, Black activists have worked to educate the general public, push for legislation, organize protests and serve the community during this never-ending epidemic of sexual violence. Unfortunately, the efforts of some of these activists are often overlooked or overshadowed. Here are just a few names of Black leaders who have worked to fight against sexual violence.

Rosa Parks

Yes, you probably know all about Rosa Parks because she played a pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, you may not know that she was fierce anti-sexual violence advocate. For years, she worked to address sexual violence that was perpetuated through Alabama's legal system. Most notably, she worked to amplify the voice of anti-sexual violence advocate Recy Taylor. With that said, her work was not limited to the state of Alabama. She worked across the south to fight sexual assault and eventually helped launch the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice.

Memphis Riot Survivors

Following the Civil War, Black communities in the greater Memphis area were targeted in a two-day massacre known as the 1886 Memphis Riots. Ultimately, this riot left nearly 50 people dead and many more were sexually abused. In the aftermath of the riots, five Black survivors of sexual violence testified for a Congressional investigation into the matter. In spite of their bravery, none of the suspects were charged or convicted of these crimes.

Recy Taylor

In 1944, a woman by the name of Recy Taylor was abducted and raped by six white men while walking home from church. In the Jim Crow South, Taylor used her story to pursue legal action against the six assailants and empower other survivors to speak out against these issues. Through her work, she developed a friendship with the aforementioned Rosa Parks, who did similar work. Together, the two worked to launch the Alabama Committee for Equal Justice. Her work was later honored by Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards and by the Congressional Black Caucus at the State of the Union Address in 2018.