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Claudette Colvin refuses to give up her seat

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Who is Claudette Colvin ?

Colvin was born on September 5, 1939 in Montgomery, Alabama. When she was 15, in 1955, she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in which she was arrested for & it also took place 9 months prior to Rosa Parks' incident. Claudette stood up against segregation in Alabama & was only 15 when she did so. Colvin was arrested on many charges, such as violating the city's segregation laws. Terrified, she was, as she sat in the city's jail for hours and hours before her minister bailed her out. She later went home & she and her parents stayed up all night concerned about possible retaliation. Around the time of her arrest, Colvin became pregnant & later gave birth to her son, Raymond Colvin, on December 1955.(¨Claudette Colvin Biography¨)

Claudette Colvin

The Purpose of Refusing

After school on March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin walked to downtown Montgomery with three of her classmates. She and her friends were going to take the city bus home from school that day. When they boarded the bus, they sat behind the first five rows, which were reserved for white passengers. A young white woman boarded the bus after Colvin and her friends and found nowhere to sit because the white section was full. Bus drivers had the authority to make black passengers move for white passengers, even if they were sitting in the black section. The bus driver asked Colvin and her friends to get up, which her friends immediately did. She refused to move. On her mind were the lessons she had learned throughout her life, especially during Negro History Month at her school just days before. Though her friends’ seats (one next to Colvin and two across the aisle) were now vacant, the white woman refused to sit in them because, according to Jim Crow laws, black people could not sit next to next to white people. They had to sit behind white people to show their inferiority. When asked again, Colvin refused to get up. The bus driver alerted the traffic police, and three stops later, a traffic officer came onto the bus and asked her why she was sitting there and why she would not get up. She replied, “because it’s my constitutional right,” and told him she was not breaking the segregation law by sitting there. The traffic officer told the bus driver that the police needed to get involved. A stop or two later, two police officers came onto the bus and instructed Colvin to get up. She refused. She later said, “I could not move because history had me glued to the seat…Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on another shoulder.”(¨National Women´s History Museum¨) Every American child learns about Rosa Parks in school. On December 1, 1955, she, a black woman, was arrested for refusing to give her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man. Her arrest led to a boycott of the city’s public transportation that lasted 381 days and ignited the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Nine months earlier, Claudette Colvin was arrested for the exact same thing. She was just 15 years old.(Blattman)

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Where Is She Now ?

Colvin is now 76, alive & well. A resident of The Bronx, New York City, New York. ¨I´ve seen the change, I´ve seen the fruit of my labor. Not just for my children but for all the African-American children.(Colvin)