Black History Month: Claudette Colvin


Marifel Miguel, Staff Writer

Many people have heard, read, and studied the story of Rosa Parks, the first Black woman to not give up her seat for a white person during a time where segregation was taking over cities and communities.

Even though history has taught us that Rosa Parks was the first Black woman to change history after refusing to give up her seat, what history has hidden from us is that Rosa Parks was not the first person to do this; it was a young girl named Claudette Colvin.

On March 2, 1955, at the age of 15, Claudette was on a bus ride home from school, and she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white woman as a form of protest. She simply was tired of the way black people were getting treated. Claudette was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested.

9 months later Rosa Parks decided to do the same thing which gained much more attention and initiated the Montgomery bus boycott. However, it was Claudette who was one of 4 plaintiffs in the Browder vs Gayle case that led Montgomery and Alabama to end bus segregation.

You might be wondering: if Claudette Colvin initiated the Montgomery bus boycott movement, then why isn’t she given any recognition? Well, this was for a number of reasons, many of them being her appearance and reputation. She got pregnant as a teenager and out of wedlock to a white man. Her arrest was seen as controversial and followed her for the rest of her life and she struggled to find jobs because of it.

Appearance-wise they didn’t like her either: they thought she didn’t have good hair and didn’t like that she wasn’t fair-skinned. They thought that a teenager wouldn’t be a good representation of the movement and thought they wouldn’t get taken seriously so they chose Rosa Parks instead.

Claudette was never angry about this and even barely told her story after moving to New York. However, her family is still fighting for recognition, and even though she has gotten a few things such as a street being named after her, giving her an official day in Montgomery, and having her name engraved in a marker near a Rosa Park’s statue.

This 15 year old paved the way for much more popular activists such as Rosa Park and Dr. Martin Luther King