This week’s #LiftEVERYvoice segment highlights Ruby Jackson, a survivor whose case has been considered a landmark trial in the struggle for civil rights as she was the first black woman to testify against a white man’s sexual abuse and paternity of their child.
By Alexis, Medical Advocate in Baton Rouge
Ruby Jackson McCollum was born in 1909 in Zuber, Florida. She married Sam McCollum in 1931 and they had four kids together, with the youngest being from a forced relationship with Dr. Leroy Adams. On August 3, 1952, Ruby McCollum shot Dr. Adams four times with a revolver in self-defense after he did not agree to stop forcing a sexual relationship with her. Ruby reported that over a period of years, the doctor had repeatedly forced her to submit to sex, physically abused her, and forced her to bear his child. Judge Hal W. Adams presided over the case along with an all-white, male jury who were patients of the doctor. Ruby was only allowed to testify to events that occurred on the day of the murder and was silenced if she stated anything that could establish mitigating circumstances. The judge also imposed a gag order on Ruby, preventing her and her attorneys from speaking with the press.
The jury convicted Ruby of first-degree murder on December 20, 1952, and sentenced her to death in the electric chair. The Florida Supreme Court overturned Ruby’s conviction and death sentence. At the second trial, Ruby was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and committed to the Florida State Hospital for mental patients. She remained there until her lawyer successfully filed for her release under Florida’s Baker Act in 1974. Ruby had no recollection of the ordeal when she was released from the hospital. Psychiatrists reported that she may have suffered from Ganser Syndrome due to the suppression of painful memories, although the hospital was investigated multiple times over issues of patient treatment, overuse of medications, and electroshock therapy. Ruby McCollum died of a stroke on May 23, 1992.
A Letter to Ruby
#LiftEVERYVoice is a movement created by STAR® to amplify the voices of survivors silenced by racial oppression. We seek to uplift, support and empower survivors of color.