Claudette Colvin(First Black Woman not To Give Up Her Seat Was not Rosa Parks)
First Black Woman To Give Up Her Seat Was Ignored For Having A Baby Out Of Wedlock
Claudette Colvin was the first person arrested for what Rosa Parks became famous for—resisting the bus segregation in Montgomery Alabama. Born on September 5, 1939 in Montgomery, AL, Colvin was just sixteen years old when she decided that she no longer wanted to be treated as a substandard citizen. But unfortunately, she never received the historical recognition she deserved.
Here are a few facts about this lady that may interest you:
FACT #1: Colvin was part of the NAACP Youth Council and was learning about Civil Rights in school. She was noted as being a straight A student who once aspired to be the President of the United States.
FACT #2: The day she refused to give up her seat, she said that she’d been thinking about how Blacks couldn’t try on clothing at department stores and that’s what sparked her courage.
FACT #3: On that fateful day, Ms. Colvin was sitting in the middle section of the bus when it became full. The bus driver yelled for her to get up and give her seat to a White woman who was standing up and this is when Ms. Colvin refused stating, “This is my constitutional right.” She was arrested by two police officers at the next stop.
FACT #4: The police men who took her in reported that she wasn’t ruffed up when in fact they had kicked her as they dragged her off the bus. On the way to the police station, they took turns trying to guess her bra size.
FACT #5: Black Leaders didn’t want to publicize her efforts because she was an unwed teenage mother and the NAACP didn’t want her to tarnish their movement. Instead they used Rosa Parks’s story nine months later because she was more “relatable” to White people. Her skin was lighter and her hair had a softer texture giving her the appearance of a middle class, “well-to-do” Black woman. It should be noted that Rosa Parks was a seasoned NAACP official and her resistance was planned.
FACT #6: Ms. Colvin had a relationship with Rosa Parks. After she was arrested, Rosa Parks would often invite her over to spend the night at her apartment where they would feast on peanut butter and Ritz crackers. For a long time, Ms. Colvin was upset with not being recognized although she had no ill feelings towards Rosa Parks.
FACT #7: Ms. Colvin made history by becoming one of five women who testified in the case of Browder v. Gayle which went all the way to Supreme Court. The courts eventually ordered that the state of Alabama end the practice of bus segregation.
FACT #8: After the case, she was labeled a trouble maker and it was hard for her to get work. So she relocated to the Bronx, NY with her young son Raymond (who died at the age of 37), and worked as a nurse’s assistant for 35 years. She had another son but never married.