Black History Month Profile: Claudette Colvin

Written by: Emily Vargo

Rosa Parks is a historical figure and an inspiration to many. She helped pave the way during the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus. However, not many know about a 15-year-old girl who did the same thing nine months before Rosa.

This 15-year-old girl is Claudette Colvin, and she is still alive today at the age of 82. Claudette was born on September 5, 1939, in Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1955, Claudette was a student at the segregated Booker T. Washington High school in the city. Claudette relied on the cities buses to get to school and home. However, the busses were segregated at the time, and those of color had to sit in the back of the bus. Claudette was part of the NAACP youth group, learning about the civil rights movement. On March 2, 1955, Claudette went on a bus and sat in the colored section. At a bus stop, a white customer came onto the bus.

The bus driver commanded Claudette and three others to give up their seats. Claudette, who had learned about the Civil rights movement, knew she had rights, and decided not to give up her seat.

The cops were called, and she was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested. She was bailed out by her minister, who told her that she brought the revolution to Montgomery.

Claudette was convicted of three charges in juvenile court; however her cause was appealed to the Montgomery Circuit Court on May 6, 1955, and the charges of disturbing the peace and violating the segregation laws were dropped.

Although her conviction for assaulting a police officer was upheld. Claudette never assaulted a police officer, which means she was convicted for something she never did. Later there would be a case of Browder V. Gayle, which would go to the courts and eventually ended bus segregation in Alabama.

Claudette didn’t get the recognition she deserved for many reasons. Right after standing up for her rights, she became pregnant. This made a huge controversy which sadly led to the civil rights leaders refusing to help her. They were afraid it would cause more harm than good. Even though Claudette didn’t get the recognition she deserved, she did so much to pave the way for people’s rights today, and she left an amazing legacy to inspire many.

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