Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin

Before there was Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin's story begins as a young girl growing up in segregated Montgomery, Alabama. She knew firsthand of the humiliation and violence that could be wrought on black people if they did not toe the line of Jim Crow. Her friend had been put to death for an innocent flirtatious gesture toward a white girl. Colvin, a studious child, was determined to get the best education possible, become a lawyer, and fight for civil rights. On March 2, 1955, however, Colvin's life changed forever. The fifteen year old boarded a segregated, city bus on her way home from school, her mind filled with what she'd been learning during Negro History Week. At one stop, several white passengers got on, and the bus driver ordered her and three others to move, though there were other seats available for the white passengers. Three got up, Colvin stayed. As she says, "I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other – saying. 'Sit down girl!' I was glued to my seat." rrested and thrown in jail, she was one of four women who challenged the segregation law in court. If Browder v. Gayle became the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in both Montgomery and Alabama, why has Claudette’s story been largely forgotten? At the time, the NAACP and other Black organizations felt Rosa Parks made a better icon for the movement than a teenager. As an adult with the right look, Rosa Parks was also the secretary of the NAACP, and was both well-known and respected – people would associate her with the middle class and that would attract support for the cause. But the struggle to end segregation was often fought by young people, more than half of which were women.

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