On March 2, 1955 Claudette boarded the city bus on her way home from school. She paid her fare and sat down in the first open seat she found. She sat in the seat recalling the lessons she learned in school that day. They talked about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and discussed some of the injustices they suffered in Montgomery, Alabama under the Jim Crow laws. Her thoughts were shattered by the white bus driver standing over her, ordering her to move. She refused. Her friends sitting at the rear of the bus watched in fear as the scene unfolded. They watched their classmate, Claudette, dragged off the bus, screaming, by two white officers and put in the back of the police car.
Months later, a similar scene unfolded, thrusting Rosa Parks into the spotlight and making her the face of the civil rights movement. But what about Claudette? What happened to her?
The NAACP was aware of 15-year-old Claudette Colvin. They ultimately decided to have Rosa Parks displayed as the victim of injustice because she was older, had a clean record, and was respected in the community. Claudette, a teenager, was considered unreliable due of her age and because was pregnant at the time. The NAACP did not want the fact that she was with child to become a distraction to the campaign.
Although Claudette was not a notable name in the history of the civil rights movement, her story did impact change. Claudette was one of four plaintiffs in the Browder v. Gayle case, which challenged the bus segregation laws. This case successfully overturned the bus segregation laws in the city of Montgomery and the state of Alabama.
Find out more about Claudette Colvin here, and read an excerpt of her biography.