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Claudette Colvin

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Claudette Colvin, aged 13, in 1953.

•‬On September 5, 1939, Claudette Colvin, civil rights pioneer, was born in Montgomery, Alabama.

•‬On March 2, 1955, while returning from high school on the bus, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white person in violation of local law.

•‬As a result, she was removed from the bus by two police officers and taken to jail.

•‬At the time, black leaders were looking for a case to litigate to overturn the law, but because of Colvin’s poor background, they waited until they had a plaintiff who was more upstanding.

•‬For many years, Montgomery's black leaders did not publicize Colvin's pioneering effort.

•‬At 15 years old, she was an unmarried teenager and was reportedly impregnated by a married man soon after the incident.

•‬Nine months later, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person resulting in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

•‬"The bus was getting crowded, and I remember the bus driver looking through the rearview mirror asking her [Colvin] to get up for the white woman, which she didn't," said Annie Larkins Price, a classmate of Colvin.

•‬"She had been yelling, 'It's my constitutional right!' She decided on that day that she would not move."

•‬Colvin recalled, "History kept me stuck to my seat. I felt the hand of Harriet Tubman pushing down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth pushing down on the other."

•‬Colvin was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the bus. She shouted that her constitutional rights were being violated.

•‬Claudette Colvin said, "But I made a personal statement, too, one that [Parks] didn't make and probably couldn't have made. Mine was the first cry for justice, and a loud one."

•‬Colvin was sentenced to probation and in 1958 moved to New York City.

•‬She retired in 2004 after 35 years as a nurse’s aide at a Manhattan nursing home.

•‬Colvin’s story was told in the biography “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” which won the 2009 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.