An unsung hero: Claudette Colvin


Gabby Viana

Claudette Colvin stood up for African American rights. On March 2, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, 15-year-old Claudette was arrested because she refused to give her bus seat to a white woman.

The day Claudette experienced the bus incident, she was on the bus going home from school. She attended Booker T. Washington High school and was on the bus with thirteen of her classmates. Once the white section of the bus filled up, the driver and white passengers made the students get up from their seats and move to the back of the bus. She had recently learned about the 14th amendment so she refused to move. She was “glued to my seat” (Newsweek). There was a seat across from Colvin available but the lady did not sit there because she knew it would mean she was equal to the young girl. Claudette got dragged off of the bus by two police officers while she was yelling, “It’s my constitutional right!”. Colvin later released that the policemen were being unnecessarily aggressive and while in the car with them, even feared that they would beat and or rape her.

At the time, Claudette was unmarried and pregnant so it seemed to be her against the world. The civil rights campaigners that were helping to defend her even gave up on her case once they learned about this information. In a United States district court, Colvin testified before the three-judge panel that was selected to try her case. June 13, 1956, is the date that the judges came to the conclusion that the bus segregation laws in Alabama were unconstitutional. The case went to the United States Supreme Court on appeal by the state. On November 13 of 1956, it upheld the district court’s ruling. One month later, the Supreme Court ordered Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation. The Montgomery bus boycott that was started by Rosa Parks 9 months after Colvin’s incident was then called off after a few months.

Claudette’s story is often pushed under the rug due to her pregnancy and age. “If the white press got ahold of that information, they would have [had] a field day. They’d call her a bad girl, and her case wouldn’t have a chance” Claudette says to the GuardianLondon. She is nowhere as well known as she should be. Even after the bus incident, Claudette went on to continue her activism such as writing a book, doing speeches, and much more.