In a powerful speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey framed the #MeToo movement as the latest episode in a long history of women’s resistance to sexual harassment and violence. Her speech was also notable for emphasizing the activism of racially and economically marginalized women, including Recy Taylor, who died in 2017 at the age of 98. Taylor’s determination to seek justice for her rape in Jim Crow-era Alabama set the stage for the civil rights movement and in many ways, today’s modern #MeToo movement. The Me Too campaign was created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, a black woman following in the footsteps of Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks.
Use the following Teaching Idea as an entry point into Taylor’s story and the long history of black women’s activism against sexual violence and harassment.
Note: The readings and activities below contain references to rape and other forms of sexual violence and harassment that simultaneously may be difficult to understand for some students and all too real for others. It is possible that some students will have additional questions or comments on the topic of rape outside of the context of these activities. It is important to preview how you might respond to such questions and comments in case they arise. If they do, make sure to develop or return to a class contract with students to guide any discussion that follows.
Ask students to read the Washington Post article, Recy Taylor, Oprah Winfrey and the long history of black women saying #MeToo. Since the article is fairly long and may be challenging for some students, consider previewing some vocabulary in advance, or using the Read Aloud or the Annotating and Paraphrasing Sources teaching strategies to promote students’ understanding of the ideas and arguments presented.
Use the following questions to guide a class reflection and discussion after reading:
In the media and even some history textbooks, Rosa Parks’s motivation for her refusal to relinquish her seat has often been trivialized as “Rosa Parks was tired.” Present this information to students and ask them to compare this narrative to Parks’s own description of her motives for initiating the bus boycott (from Facing History’s study guide Eyes on the Prize, page 20). Students should also use the information they learned from the Washington Post article to support their reasoning.
Then, ask students to discuss the following questions:
To give students a better sense of the experiences of domestic workers in the Jim Crow South, who were the majority of participants in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, use Essie Favrot's personal account, from Facing History’s study guide Teaching Mockingbird.
When students finish reading, ask them to construct an identity chart for Essie Favrot. Then, discuss the following questions: