Claudette Colvin

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Claudette Colvin

Chanmonita Loek, Associate Editor

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A hero is someone who is courageous, strong willed and someone who perseveres through hardship in order to achieve their goals and help out those in need. During the Civil Rights Movement era, people often think that Rosa Parks was the first person to refuse giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white person, in violation of local law, but, that is not the case. Claudette Colvin born on September 5, 1939 is an African American woman from Alabama who at the age of 15, refused to give up her seat to a white person and was arrested. Colvin acted a few months before the more widely known incident with Parks.

On March 2, 1955, she was returning home from school. She sat in the colored section about two seats away from an emergency exit, in a Capitol Heights bus. Colvin was pregnant at the time. When a white woman who got on the bus was left standing in the front, the bus driver, Robert W. Cleere, commanded Colvin and three other black women in her row to move to the back. The other three moved, but another pregnant black woman, Ruth Hamilton, got on and sat next to Colvin. The police arrived and convinced a black man sitting behind the two women to move so that Mrs. Hamilton could move back, but Colvin still refused to move. She was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested by the two policemen, Thomas J. Ward and Paul Headley.

Claudette Colvin later became a civil rights activist in Alabama during the 1950s. Before Rosa Parks famous protest, Colvin stood up against segregation in Alabama in 1955 and she served in the legal case Browder v. Gayle that helped end the segregation on the Montgomery buses. Most civil rights writings based on the Montgomery history focused on the arrest of Rosa Parks and totally forgot about Claudette Colvin and her role in the fight to end segregation in Montgomery. She was the one that gave moral support to others and without her, people wouldn’t have moved forward to fight for their rights.

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