Rationale behind NOW's opposition to the death penalty for rape
Slifkin discusses efforts to reform "rape laws" during the mid-1970s. At the time, the death penalty was applied to rape cases, not because of its violent nature, but because of its lingering legal connection to the idea that women were property. She also notes the racial implications of rape laws by pointing out that, historically, black men were charged and convicted of rape far more frequently than white men. Because of these implications, NOW was against the death penalty for rape.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
[Description of Slifkin's and NOW's opposition to death penalty for
rape.] Another thing is, back then you could get the death penalty for
rape. We were against it. The reason to get the death penalty was not
because our legislators thought it was such a heinous crime. It was
because you were property. And this property was being devalued. And
never, as far as I know, was a white man given the death penalty for
raping a black woman. And I don't know that any white man was ever given
it for raping any white woman. But black men who were accused of raping
white men got it. And I'm not sure that they were always guilty. So we
were very much against that.