Bus strike, Alabama. Rosa Parks, right?

Sometimes credit in history is manipulated for image. Taking nothing away from Rosa Parks, but she was far from the first to stand (or sit ) for her rights. In fact, several months before Rosa’s now famous refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, a young teenage girl, Claudette Colvin, believed in the dream that white and black were equal.

Claudette Colvin

Claudette attended a segregated high school. There she studied about women like Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. At fifteen years old, she acquired knowledge and courage beyond the customary for one of her years.

On March 2, 1955 she was riding a city bus, and was ordered to give up her seat, and move to the back of the bus to permit a white person to sit.

She refused, saying “It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.”

Claudette Colvin

The bus halted, and Claudette was forcibly dragged off the bus, arrested, and jailed. She was one of four women who challenged the segregation law in court.

If Claudette was first, why was all the attention given to Rosa Parks? Because the NAACP was looking for a test case, one that they thought would win. Rosa was middle class, an adult, respectable, and secretary of the NAACP. After Rosa’s action, the black community started the Montgomery Bus boycott, where black people refused to ride the buses.

Montgomery bus boycott

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Some of the women faced intimidation from the white community when the NAACP started a case to go before the Supreme Court, one dropped out. But the struggle to end segregation was often fought by young people, more than half of which were women. 

Courage sometimes comes in young, small packages.

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