For the inspiration of Claudette Colvin,
we give thanks! ~ and to author Phil Hoose for getting her story up & out! History had me glued to my seat. It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn't get up. ~ Claudette Colvin Claudette Colvin is a little known heroine of the civil rights movement and the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus,
15 year old Claudette did the same. Yet, it was a spontaneous act for young Claudette who had been studying black history and inspirations like Sojourner Truth & Harriet Tubman Wright.
Her class at high school had been talking of the injustices past and present. "We couldn't try on clothes," Colvin says. "You had to take a brown paper bag and draw a diagram of your foot ... and take it to the store. Can you imagine all of that in my mind? My head was just too full of black history, you know, the oppression that we went through. It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn't get up."
Claudette was dragged off the bus by 2 police officers; she was physically and verbally abused as she was removed from the bus, in the police car and at the jail where she was locked up as an adult with no phone call. Her friends on the bus called her mother and her minister; the minister paid her bail and got her out. Once home, she and her terrified family were up all night fearing retribution from the KKK. In the months that followed, Claudette spent time with Rosa Parks, Dr. King and others as the Montgomery Bus Boycott was carefully planned. It was thought that Claudette Colvin was not the right face for the movement for many reasons, especially her age whereas Mrs. Parks was thought a better choice. "Claudette gave all of us moral courage. If she had not done what she did, I am not sure that we would have been able to mount the support for Mrs. Parks."
~ Fred Gray as told toNewsweek
One year after her initial arrest, Claudette Colvin was one of four brave enough to sue the bus line with lawyer Fred Gray. Claudette was the 'star witness' in the case based on her being thrown off the bus and arrested. There were three other plantiffs in the case who also refused to give up their seats and were arrested. The woman named in the suit was Aurelia Browder, a civil rights activist with NAACP & other groups. Her arrest came 1 month after Claudette's and 8 month's before Rosa's. Mary Louise Smith was 18 when arrested; removed from a Montgomery bus 7 months after Claudette and 2 months prior to Rosa Parks. The 4th plantiff who was arrested for not giving up her seat was 70 year old Susie McDonald. The lawsuit was won proving the 14th ammendment violation. The lawsuit in tandem with Rosa's widely publized arrest and the 381 day bus boycott finally succeeded in ending the segregation on the busses.
When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it.
You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ ~ Claudette Colvin
Young Claudette Colvin
Claudette Colvin was born September 5, 1939 in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Montgomery, Alabama. She studied hard in school, got straight A's and talked about running for President. After studying history and civil rights, 15 year old Claudette would not leave her seat or the bus that March day in 1955, yelling,
"It's my constitutional right!". A majority of her friends and school mates shunned her after her arrest and the quiet teen was labeled as rebellious and dangerous. She got involved with an older, married man that summer and ended up pregnant. After her arrest and the lawsuit trial the following year, Claudette took her baby son to live with an older sister in New York City. There, Claudette never talked about her role in the civil rights movement. She became a nurses aid in a nursing home where she worked for 35 years. Phil Hoose was instrumental in bringing her story to light in the book, "Twice Toward Justice".
From Amazon Listing:
On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders.
Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge segregation again as a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that struck down the bus segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.
Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is the 2009 National Book Award Winner
for Young People's Literature and a 2010 Newbery Honor Book.
From Democracy Now
The "Other Rosa Parks": Now 73, Claudette Colvin
Was First to Refuse Giving Up Seat on Montgomery Bus
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