(Republished Article from June 18th, 2019. Written by Morticia)
In 1955 Claudette Colvin was a fifteen year old girl who lived right outside of Montgomery, Alabama. Everyone knows Rosa Parks! But— Claudette was the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat to a white person. The cops came and grabbed and dragged her out of the bus and she was arrested. The NAACP was getting an overflow of letters about Claudette. At the time Rosa Parks was the secretary of the NAACP and she read the letters and contacted Claudette. They ended up becoming friends. ED Nixon was the President of the NAACP chapter in Alabama — he decided on doing a bus boycott. He didn’t think it would be a wise idea to have Claudette as the face of the boycott and that’s when he decided that Rosa Parks would be the face. So about 10 months after Claudette was arrested, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. Then the NAACP went to the Supreme Court with five women. Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks, Mary Louise Smith, Aurelia Browder and Jeanetta Reese.
Jeanetta Reese (dropped out of the case within a day due to the cruel intimidation of the white people in her community. She also tried to lie and say that she never actually agreed to be part of the case and was falsely represented. She tried to get the attorneys de-barred.) This is sad but true.
Anyhow, Colvin wants the world to know that “Rosa Parks was the right person [to be the face of the] boycott.” She also feels that people need to know that there were four other black women involved in challenging the Supreme Court (names I mentioned above).
Colvin also has stated “I am not angry that I did not get recognition; I am more disappointed.” She used a metaphor by saying it was like getting a Christmas card in January instead of on Christmas.
So in honor of Claudette Colvin who was the first black woman to be arrested for refusing to give up her seat- I wrote this to set the record straight. Rosa Parks is well known in history and history books and she is very important. But, not many people know about Miss Claudette and how she was the first. She doesn’t get recognized. She started the movement and she didn’t get to be the face of the movement because of her age.
However some might say she wasn’t the face because she had darker skin, was pregnant, and extremely vocal on her rights and Rosa Parks had lighter skin, which was more appealing to societal issues back then. I’m not saying this is the reason why- but it could easily be true, just as it could easily be a rumor.
Thank you Claudette for standing up for yourself and being an example to many. Thank you for being a part of history and social justice. Just remember next time you hear someone talking about Rosa Parks listen and then educate them on Claudette!