Black Activists - Claudette Colvin
Claudette Colvin was born September 5, 1939 in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin is not as well known as her successor Rosa Parks. However 9 months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger Colvin did the exact same thing. Colvin was the first person to take a stand against bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin’s situation is not as well known as Rosa Park’s because at the time Colvin was only 15 years old. Regardless it was Colvin’s United States Supreme Court case, which involved four women that helped to end bus segregation in Alabama.
Claudette Colvin grew up in Montgomery, Alabama and was a very good student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery with really high aspirations for her life. Colvin was like any other 15 year old simply going to school and studying. That is until the one day when she took the bus home. Colvin took the bus daily to and from school so that was nothing new to her; however, on this particular day things were very different as she rode the bus home.
Claudette Colvin decided one day while riding the bus home from school that she was not going to get up for a white person. Colvin was tired of having to give up her seat to someone else just because she was black. Colvin was arrested for her actions and had to sit in jail for several hours. Colvin was terrified as she waited in jail not sure what the white people would do to her while she was there. After a few hours her bail was paid and she went home. For a time the NAACP considering using Colvin’s case to help challenge segregation laws but she was young and at the time she was pregnant and the NAACP did not want to risk attracting negative attention. Colvin’s case, Browder v. Gayle went to the United States Supreme Court and included three other plaintiffs besides Colvin. The ruling of the case was that it was unconstitutional forMontgomeryto have a segregated bus system.
After Claudette Colvin’s court case Colvin found it difficult to continue on with her regular life. Because of the court case and because Colvin received probation she was seen as a problem child. Colvin ended up dropping out of college because of the pressure and also found it difficult to find a job. Colvin could not fight her new found reputation. Colvin went from being known as a shy and quiet girl to a troublemaker. This was very difficult for Colvin to deal with. After a few years Colvin was finally able to find work as a nurse’s aide which she did for almost 40 years until she retired.
Claudette Colvin was very young when she took a stand for her rights and the rights of other blacks in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin took a stand because she was tired of the mistreatment and felt that it was time for a change. Although Colvin’s name is not immediately associated with the Montgomery Bus Boycott it was because of her actions that Rosa Park’s same actions could reinforce Colvin’s stance and validate both women’s actions. Colvin’s case helped to end segregated busing in Alabama, an amazing feat from someone so young.
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