Claudette Colvin: A Forgotten Figure in Black History Month


Alexis Perez, Reporter

Next week is the start of Black History Month and with it, we remember those who fought for civil rights for African Americans. Widely known figures like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, today however,  the focus is not on them. The focus is on another girl, Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat nearly nine months before Rosa Parks did.

The NAACP was looking for a test case against segregation and Claudette’s attorney thought she would be a good fit, but she was 15. Her conviction was overturned and she became pregnant a few months after her arrest. Unfortunately, the NAACP simply thought Claudette was the wrong person to lead the boycotts because of the baggage she was regarding her pregnancy.

Most importantly, she was humble, like most leaders are.

Her name would not resurface until Black History Month in 1979. She was also given MLK Jr. Medal of Freedom in 1990.

Colvin commented on why she wasn’t chosen in an interview to The Guardian in 2000. “It would have been different,” Colvin said, “if I hadn’t been pregnant or been lightskinned, it would have made a difference,  too.” In another interview with CBS, she said, “I’m glad they picked Mrs. Parks, I wanted that bus boycott to be 100 percent successful.”

Joseph Correia works at the Cal Works Office at COS. Joseph stated that if Claudette or Rosa not had stood up for their rights things would have stayed the same. He is grateful that he has freedom of speech and named Malcom X and Martin Luther King as influential leaders.

We are quick to forget who started this revolt, but had it not been for Claudette, maybe Rosa Parks wouldn’t have boycotted either and maybe Martin Luther King Jr. would have remained a priest.