When we think of boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, collective minds immediately go to Rosa Parks and her bravery on Dec. 1st, 1995, rejecting a bus driver’s insistence to vacate a “colored” seat for a white passenger. She was later arrested, setting off the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Unfortunately, with situations like this, there’s always more than one instance to tell.
Nine months before Park’s story, there was a 15-year-old Claudette Colvin on Mar. 2nd, 1955, in Alabama, she refused to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus. She was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer which remained on her record throughout her adult life. Thankfully, today she receives justice standing up for her rights. According to NPR, at 82, an Alabama judge has agreed to wipe Colvin’s record clean.
It took 66 years for this to get done, but Colvin herself seemed to have a sense of humor about it, stating, “that means that I’m no longer, at 82, a juvenile delinquent.” She further explained why she felt the need to act on that faithful March day.
From the Montgomery Adviser:
“My reason for doing it is I get a chance to tell my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, what life was like living in segregated America, in segregated Montgomery,” she said. “The laws, the hardship, the intimidation that took place during those years and the reason why that day I took a stand and defied the segregated law.”
Colvin and three other Black women sat in the designated section of the bus when the driver ordered them to leave their seats for white people who came on. She refused to leave her seat, and police were called soon after. Colvin sighted figures such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth as inspiration for why she did what she did to People Magazine.
“I felt as though Harriet Tubman was pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth was pushing me down on the other,” she said. “So therefore, history had me glued to the seat. That was the reason I could not move.”
We can all feel relief that somebody like Claudette Colvin will be able to live the rest of her life, no longer having the stain of racism following her. Well deserved and highly overdue. 66 years a long time to undo a mistake. It makes you think of so many pioneers who had sit-ins and partook in similar styles of protests and didn’t get this chance. Let’s hope that the celebration and exoneration of these heroes continues - especially while they are alive to receive their flowers.