Claudette Colvin is considered the unsung pioneer of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
On March 2, 1955, at the age of 15, Claudette was the first person arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, nine months before the highly publicized incident involving Rosa Parks.
When the bus driver told Claudette to get up she refused, “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.”
After she was arrested and thrown into jail, Colvin, along with four other women, challenged the segregation law in court. Browder v. Gayle became the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama.
The NAACP and other black organizations felt it was best to let Rosa Parks be the face of the boycott as opposed to Claudette, who was a teenager who was pregnant by a married man.
In 2005, Claudette Colvin told the Montgomery Advertiser:
I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on. I’m not disappointed. Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.
Thank you, Claudette.
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