Women’s History Month Spotlight: Claudette Colvin


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Civil rights figure Claudette Colvin laid the groundwork for many of the social changes in the 1950s.

This article is the fourth in a five part weekly article series that will feature famous historical female figures for the month of March. This week’s feature will deal with Claudette Colvin, a civil rights activist who has been coined as ‘the first Rosa Parks’ for her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.  

Claudette Colvin was born on Sept. 5, 1939 in Montgomery, AL. Colvin grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in all of Alabama; however, she worked hard in school, and set out to become president of the United States from a young age. 

At the age of 15, Colvin was riding home from school on a Montgomery bus when she was told to vacate her seat for a white passenger. She refused, saying “It’s my constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare, it’s my constitutional right.” Colvin was soon arrested on charges of violating the city’s segregation laws, and spent several hours in jail that night. 

During her court appearance, Colvin declared herself not guilty. However, Colvin was opposed by the court, who put her on probation. The court hearing had many negative effects on Colvin, as she was unable to find a job due to the development of public opinion against her. 

Much of history focuses more on the actions of Rosa Parks nine months later; however, but some writers have tried to change that. In a Claudette Colvin biography by Phillip Hoose, Colvin’s young adult life was described, as well as a history of Claudette’s actions being the first protest of a Montgomery bus. 

While her contribution to the civil rights movement may not be widely recognized, Colvin should be credited with advancing the movement of civil rights in America. Her actions influenced much of the civil rights movement that dominated much of the 1960s, as well as laid the groundwork for the bus protest by Rosa Parks in Dec. of the same year.