This week’s #LiftEVERYVoice segment features Ruby Atee Pigford.
By Airzola Cleaves, Staff Attorney
Ruby Atee Pigford—a black teenager—was raped by a “well-to-do oil dealer” named James Lee Perry. On August 7, 1947, James Perry picked Ruby up after he promised to pay her $0.70 per hour for a babysitting job. However, instead of taking Ruby to his house, James Perry drove to a nearby bar. When Ruby refused to go inside the bar with James Perry, he beat her until she was unconscious. He then raped her, tied her body to the bumper of his car, and dragged her body through town. Later that evening, James Perry dumped Ruby’s body outside of her home.
Ruby told her parents what happened, and her parents told their friends. The African-American community supported Ruby and demanded justice. Edward Knott, Jr., the secretary of the NAACP chapter in Meridian, Mississippi wired the story to the Pittsburgh Courier and airmailed a letter to the national NACCP office. The Assistant Special Counsel, Marian Wynn Perry, recommended that the case be widely publicized in an effort to draw attention to Mississippi. As Danielle McGuire indicated in her novel, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power, “[t]he only feasible way to hold white men accountable for raping black women—since Southern courts would not—was to draw outside attention to the crime.”
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.