In the 1950's the law in Montgomery Alabama ordered African-Americans travelers on city buses to give up their seats for white passengers. On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking this law, her actions set into motion the Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott and brought more attention to The Civil Rights Movement. Many people are unaware that nine months before Parks, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on the same bus route.
On March 2, 1955 fifteen year old Claudette Colvin and her friend sat on a Montgomery bus heading home from Booker T. Washington High School. When the bus got crowded they were ordered by the driver to give up their seats, Colvin refused and stated that she paid her fare and it was her constitutional right to have a seat. After refusing to obey the bus driver she was arrested and forcibly removed by two officers then taken to jail for breaking the law. In February, during Black History Month, Colvin's class studied blacks leaders and the segregation African-Americans faced, all of this inspired her to remain seated.
In February of 1956 Colvin and Parks along with three other women were part of the federal local court case Browder V. Gayle which focused on Alabama's segregation bus laws. Colvin testified in front of three judges and the law was found to be unconstitutional. In an attempt to appeal the local ruling, the case was moved to the Supreme Court. Colvin was the last to testify and was considered a star witness, days later the ruling was upheld and Alabama was forced to end the segregation on bus lines.
Why Haven't You Heard Of Her?
Colvin was the first person arrested for breaking the segregation bus law but her defiance went unpublicized by black leaders for many reasons. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was looking for a way to bring attention to the segregation, however some felt that Colvin was to young, did not have the right hair texture, and was to dark to be a symbol of inequality for the nation. While leaders debated whether they should use Colvin as an example, the news came that she was pregnant by a married man, she was then thought to be an inappropriate symbol to represent the NAACP's movement. In 1956 she gave birth to a baby boy named Raymond, some people accused her of having a white baby due to Raymond's fair-skin.
The story of Rosa Parks will be forever known in history, she is well respected for taking a stand against inequality. Although Claudette Colvin was not considered a good symbol for injustice, her actions and bravery deserves to be recognized. For Black History Month lets say thank you to both women for helping bring an end to segregation on buses.