By Robert Press
During the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 there was a young 15 year old girl who stood up for her right to sit on a bus in Montgomery Alabama. Her name was Claudette Colvin who happened to be colored (the term used back then), and she became an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement after being taken off the bus by police for refusing to give her seat up to a young white woman.
As Ms. Colvin told the audience Sunday, “I paid my bus fare and it is my constitutional right to sit here.” That lasted only until police officers boarded the bus to arrest Ms. Colvin. She said that she had been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King who was seeking equality in the south by the Civil Right’s Movement. Ms. Colvin went on to say that her colored friends who were with her and gave up their seats stayed away from her.
Ms. Colvin mentioned that a male classmate who was friendly with a white girl wound up being lynched a few years later after six white claimed that he raped them. Life was very tough for a young colored girl growing up in the south during her childhood. Life was tough for all colored people who were treated as second class citizens in the south.
While Ms. Claudette Colvin’s event on a Montgomery Alabama bus preceded Rosa Parks, Ms. Colvin did not receive the media coverage that Ms. Parks was given. That was because the Civil Rights Movement had progressed, and the time the Rosa Parks incident came about it was then news. Ms. Colvin did testify before the Supreme Court in the case that determined that bus segregation in Alabama was unconstitutional. That then began the desegregation movement in Alabama and the rest of the south.
Congressman Joe Crowley was on hand to present to Ms. Colvin a flag which flew over the U.S. Capital, and said that Ms. Colvin is a fine example of greatness and what is good in this country. Congressman Crowley added that he is honored to commend Ms. Colvin for her Courageous achievements.
Ms. Colvin also received a proclamation from State Senator Luis Sepulveda. Senator Sepulveda spoke of his grandfather who taught him about the Civil Rights Movement, and that Ms. Colvin’s act should be in the history books also. he added that it took courage for a 15 year old black girl to do what you did by saying “no I have a constitutional right to sit here.” He finished by saying “Ms. Colvin – you are history.”
Ms. Colvin stayed to take questions from members of the audience, and take photos with them.