Most people know the story of Rosa Parks, an African American woman who sparked the AlabamaBus Boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. But she actually wasn’t the first person to do this?
The first person to refuse to give up their seat on a segregated bus was 15-year old Claudette Colvin.
On March 2nd, 1955 a pregnant Claudette Colvin boarded a bus in Mongomery Alabama. Exhausted after a long day of school, Colvin sat in a seat toward the middle of a bus. After refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger, Colvin was handcuffed and dragged out of the bus by police.
Colvin gave this statement, “All I remember is that I was not going to walk off the bus voluntarily.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wanted to use a case like this to challenge the segregation of buses in Alabama, but because Claudette was pregnant and unwed they decided not to use her as the face of this new movement.
The leading face of the group was later upheld by Rosa Parks, who was quoted by Colvin as someone who, “had the right hair and the right look.”
“Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class… She fit that profile.”
Even though her story has gone unnoticed, no one can deny that she did not have a huge role to play in the civil rights struggle.
As Reverend Johnson, the man who bailed her out of jail, said: “Everyone prays for freedom. We’ve all been praying and praying. But you’re different—you want your answer the next morning. And I think you just brought the revolution to Montgomery.”
Claudette deserves more recognition for her bravery and adversity against prejudice – and is an inspiration to continue the fight for racial equality.