Last week, The Root reported that 82 year-old Claudette Colvin asked a court to expunge her record. She was arrested at 15 years old after refusing to get up from a bus seat in 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks did the same. Colvin’s motion sparked interest in clearing the records for Parks, King and others arrested during the civil rights movement.
Here’s what’s in the civil rights icons’ arrest records in Alabama, according to the Associated Press:
Parks, a Black seamstress and activist who was convicted of violating racial segregation laws after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955, was convicted of violating racial segregation laws. King, who helped lead the resulting Montgomery Bus Boycott, paid a $500 fine after being convicted in 1956 of violating a law banning boycotts.
Parks refused to pay her $10 fine, and she and King went on to become icons of racial justice and the modern civil rights movement. Yet their cases remain on the books in Montgomery, said civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented both.
In the case of King, an up-and-coming pastor at the time, efforts to reverse the conviction in court failed, Gray said.
“We might just decide to file a lawsuit on his behalf to have that record expunged,” Gray said. The same goes for Parks and others, potentially, he said.
The Hill reports that Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said he would support the bid if it comes, but he will wait to see the details before he responds in court.
Hundreds of people were arrested during the civil rights movement, AP notes, but many of them may not be interested in having their records expunged.
Back in 2006, the Rosa Parks Act was passed in Alabama which set up a process for people charged with nonviolent crimes during civil rights protests to receive pardons. Still over the years, some of those who were arrested in demonstrations during the 1950’s and 1960’s prefer to wear their arrest records as badges of honor in the fight for freedom and did not file any motions.
Even though the request might be filed on Parks and King’s behalf, who is to say if they saw the arrest record as a stain or a badge of honor.