On Saturday May 12, 1959 Betty Jean Owen’s life changed forever. Her life changed because four white me decided that they were going to “go out and get a nigger girl”(McGuire). The four men armed themselves and found a car with four African American people in it to hold up gun point. The men weren’t lookingfor an business with the men so they let the two guys drive off without being harmed. In this commotion Edna Richardson broke free and ran to a park leaving behind the four white men and Betty. Betty sobbed and was in much distress which made the men hit her, eventually get her into the car, and to the edge of town. Once they got her there they raped her seven times.
This was a hard time in history for a case like this. Analyses of rape play no role in most histories of the civil rights movement. Women bodies served as signposts of the social order, and white men used rape and rumors of rape to justify violence against African American men and to remind African American women that their bodies were not their own. When Betty spoke out about what happened and talked to the African American community they joined each other to protest. Rape and sexual activities with African American women had its roots in slavery. Taking advantage of these African American women gave to slave owners power, dominance, and gave them economic power. Finally, the slaves got there freedom during the interracial experiment in democracy, but that didn’t stop the white people. During all this violence rape became a weapon of terror to dominate African American men and women with physically and mentally.
Frances Thompson spoke out when seven armed white men broke into her house. They drew their guns and they sated that they would shoot if they did not give them what they wanted. Four of the men raped Frances, while the other three choke and raped sixteen year old Lucy Smith who nearly died as a result. Years after the Harriet Simril testified against the Ku Klux Klan because she was beaten and ravished by eight men. Rape was getting so bad at this time that Essic Harris appeared in front of congressional committee and said that “the rape of black women was so frequent that it had become an old saying by now”(McGuire). This problem got to the intensity that you couldn’t even trust the police who should always have your back and be the ones protecting you. Fredie Walker remembered being scared by the officers who often exposed themselves to her even though she was only eleven years old.
With all these cases of rape you would think that there was many court cases, but this was not always the case. So many of these rape cases were swept under the rug and the women never got justice for all the injustices against them. Finally, the verdict was out and Betty’s four rapists were sentenced tolife in prison. This may sound like the harshest punishment, but they lucked out and were not sentenced to life in prison. At first glimpse many people were very upset that the men were not given the electric chair. Even without the chair this was a huge win for American American women. This was such a big step in the civil rights moment for not only African Americans , but also for women.
McGuire, Danielle L. “Sexual Violence and the Long Civil Rights Movement.” ‘It Was Like All of Us Had Been Raped:’ Sexual Violence, Community Mobilization, and the African American Freedom Struggle. The Organization of American Historians.