I always tell young people to hold on to their dreams. And sometimes you have to stand up for what you think is right even if you have to stand alone.Claudette Colvin
I was at a poetry festival and one of the poets said she would like to have lunch with Claudette Colvin, the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus 9 months before Rosa Parks, the known civil rights activist, did the same. I researched this woman and decided to honor her for Women’s History Month.
At 83, Claudette Colvin, civil rights activist, is finally being honored and recognized as a pioneer agent of change. She was one of the plaintiffs in the federal case, Browder v. Gayle, filed in February 1956 during the boycott that ultimately led to the desegregation of Montgomery’s buses.
On March 2, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was on the bus and the driver asked her to give up her seat to a white passenger. She refused, having just learned that it was her constitutional right to do so. Officers escorted Colvin off the bus and then handcuffed and arrested her on three counts: disturbing the peace, attacking the officers, and breaking the Montgomery bus system’s desegregation law.
After 66 years, Judge Calvin Williams of Alabama expunged her juvenile delinquent record. Judge Calvin met her on a CBS interview and publicly apologized for the injustice that she encountered in 1955.
In a soon-to-see movie Spark, directed by Anthony Mackie, Saniyya Sidney stars as unsung civil rights hero and pioneer Claudette Colvin. Also, Vice President Kamala Harris recently phoned Claudette and expressed thanks for her indelible mark on history at such a young age. She now hopes her story can inspire and encourage young leaders everywhere to continue to change history for the better.
Though nine months later on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks also refused to adhere to the segregation law in the same city and on the same bus system, she was recognized immediately as a heroine. Some question why the disparity? You can read all of Claudette’s story in the award-winning book Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose, which you can buy through Amazon.