I am so excited to dedicate this month to some amazing individuals for Black History Month. The people I will be highlighting do not even scratch the surface of the magnificent and incomparable contributions black people have provided to this country. I was originally going to choose my own individuals to honor, but after I announced this series, you all provided such great examples of Black history that I have decided to recognize people based on your suggestions.
Claudette Colvin - Thank you to @mrsgray620 on Instagram for suggesting.
You know Rosa Parks. You have heard her name. You know her impact on the Civil Rights Movement. She was a Black historical figure that was even permitted to be in our elementary history books. But did you know there was a name who, although she does not receive the same recognition, made her mark in the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager with the same “defiant” act as Ms. Parks. Her name was Claudette Colvin. At the age of 15, she refused to move to the back of the bus and give up her seat to a white person — nine months before Rosa Parks did the very same thing. After she refused to give up her seat, arguing she had paid her fare and it was her constitutional right, two police officers put her in handcuffs and arrested her.
There were actually several Black women who refused to give up their seats during this time; and most of the women were quietly fined, and no one heard much more. What makes Claudette stand out is that she was the first one to challenge the constitutionality of the law. She challenged the law in court, one of four women plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama.
Sadly, after Colvin's arrest, she found herself shunned by parts of her community. She experienced various difficulties. Civil rights leaders felt she was an inappropriate symbol for a test case compared to Rosa Parks who was in her 40s, worked with the NAACP, and “looked the part.” Claudette was inspired to stand up for herself after learning about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman in school. Although Claudette was not as widely known as other Civil Rights leaders, she was valiant and fearless in her actions. We honor her and applaud her for being a trailblazer for the rights that we are able to have today. Thank you.
More information about Claudette Colvin and her story can be found in the book: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose