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retire Claudette Colvin was 15 the work she refused to provide up her seat on the bus. "My head was simply too full of black history, girlfriend know, the be oppressive that us went through," she says. Courtesy the Alean Bowser hide caption


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pensioner Claudette Colvin was 15 the job she refused to offer up her seat ~ above the bus. "My head was just too full of black color history, girlfriend know, the be suppressive that us went through," she says.

You are watching: First black woman to refuse to give up her seat

Courtesy that Alean Bowser

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The work Colvin held her own bus sit-in, her course had talked around the injustices they were experiencing day-to-day under Jim Crow distinction laws. Courtesy of Jim crow Museum in ~ Ferris State college hide caption


The day Colvin organized her own bus sit-in, her class had talked about the injustices they were experiencing daily under Jim Crow segregation laws.

Courtesy the Jim crow Museum at Ferris State college
once the driver the the segregated bus, favor the one displayed above, ordered Colvin to get up, she refused, speak she"d paid she fare and it was she constitutional right. 2 police police officers handcuffed and also arrested her. Courtesy of Birmingham windy Library room of Archives and also Manuscripts hide caption


as soon as the driver of the segregated bus, prefer the one presented above, bespeak Colvin to get up, she refused, saying she"d paid she fare and it was her constitutional right. Two police police officers handcuffed and also arrested her.

Courtesy of Birmingham public Library department of Archives and Manuscripts

Few people know the story the Claudette Colvin: once she was 15, she refused to relocate to the back of the bus and give up she seat to a white human — nine months prior to Rosa Parks go the very same thing.

Most world know about Parks and the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that started in 1955, but couple of know the there to be a number of women that refused to provide up their seats ~ above the very same bus system. Many of the ladies were quiet fined, and no one heard lot more.

Colvin was the very first to really an obstacle the law.

Now a 69-year-old retiree, Colvin lives in the Bronx. She remembers acquisition the bus home from high institution on march 2, 1955, as clear as if it were yesterday.

The bus driver ordered her to get up and also she refused, saying she"d paid she fare and also it was her constitutional right. 2 police officers put she in handcuffs and also arrested her. Her school publications went paris off her lap.

"All i remember is that i was not going to walk turn off the bus voluntarily," Colvin says.

It to be Negro background month, and also at her segregated institution they had actually been studying black leaders favor Harriet Tubman, the runaway servant who led an ext than 70 slaves to freedom through the network the safe residences known as the secret Railroad. Lock were also studying around Sojourner Truth, a former slave who came to be an abolitionist and also women"s rights activist.


The class had additionally been talking about the injustices they to be experiencing day-to-day under the Jim Crow segregation laws, choose not gift able come eat in ~ a having lunch counter.

"We couldn"t shot on clothes," Colvin says. "You had actually to take a brown record bag and draw a diagram of her foot ... And also take it come the store. Can you imagine every one of that in my mind? mine head was simply too complete of black color history, you know, the be suppressive that us went through. That felt choose Sojourner reality was top top one next pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side the me advertise me down. I couldn"t get up."

Colvin additionally remembers the minute the jail door closed. That was just like a west movie, she says.

"And then I got scared, and also panic come over me, and also I started crying. Then I started saying the Lord"s Prayer," she says.

"Twice towards Justice"

Now her story is the topic of a new book, Claudette Colvin: Twice towards Justice.

Author Phil Hoose claims that regardless of a couple of articles around her in the Birmingham press and also in USA Today, and brief mentions in some books about the civil legal rights movement, most civilization don"t know about the duty Colvin played in the bus boycotts.


Hoose couldn"t acquire over that there was this teenager, ripe months before Rosa Parks, "in the exact same city, in the same bus system, with really tough consequences, hauled off the bus, handcuffed, jailed and also nobody really knew around it."

He additionally believes Colvin is important because she tested the legislation in court, one of 4 women plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court situation that efficiently overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and also Alabama.

There are plenty of reasons why Claudette Colvin has been pretty much forgotten. She hardly ever told she story once she moved to new York City. In her new community, fixed anyone was talking about integration; instead, most civilization were talking around black enterprises, black power and also Malcolm X.

When request why she is little known and why anyone thinks only of Rosa Parks, Colvin claims the NAACP and also all the various other black institutions felt Parks would certainly be a great icon since "she to be an adult. They didn"t think teens would it is in reliable."

She likewise says Parks had actually the appropriate hair and also the best look.

"Her skin texture was the kind that civilization associate with the center class," claims Colvin. "She fit the profile."

David Garrow, a historian and the writer of Bearing the Cross: boy name Luther King Jr. And also the southern Christian leadership Conference, says world may think that Parks" activity was spontaneous, however black public leaders had actually been thinking about what come do about the Montgomery buses for years.

After Colvin"s arrest, she found herself shunned by parts of her community. She experienced various difficulties and became pregnant. Civil legal rights leaders feeling she to be an inappropriate symbol because that a check case.

Parks to be the secretary of the NAACP. She to be well-known and respected and, claims Garrow, Parks had a "natural gravitas" and also was an "inherently superior person."

At the very same time, Garrow believes fist to Colvin is a healthy and balanced corrective, since "the real reality the the activity was often young people and also often an ext than 50 percent women." The pictures you most often see are guys in suits.

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Hoose claims he believes Colvin understands the pragmatism that moved Parks come the fore, yet "on the various other hand, she walk it."

Hoose states the story of Parks and the Rev. Young name Luther King Jr. Are wonderful, however those are the story of human being in your 30s and also 40s. Colvin to be 15. Hoose feeling his publication will lug a new teen"s perspective to the battle to end segregation.