Claudette Colvin Refused to Give Up Her Bus Seat Nine Months Before Rosa Parks

In 1955, a Black woman refused to yield her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was removed from the bus and arrested, her ordeal sparking legal action that led to the end of Alabama’s segregated bus laws and enabled a widespread civil rights movement to pick up steam.

You may think you know the story, but this one isn’t about Rosa Parks — it’s about Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old who made a stand against entrenched segregation nine months before Parks did, but saw her shining moment eclipsed as other narratives of the era took root in the public consciousness.

Colvin sought to counter racial injustice at an early age

Born in September 1939, Colvin was raised by her great-aunt and uncle in rural Pine Level, Alabama, before moving to Montgomery at age 8.

A bright, inquisitive child, she quickly caught on to the racial divisions that were more glaring than they had been in close-knit Pine Level, with the visual and verbal cues apparent throughout the bustling city serving to keep Blacks in their lane.

That didn’t mean she was willing to go along with the status quo, however. Colvin was angered by the case of Jeremiah Reeves, an older classmate at Booker T. Washington High School who was indicted in 1952 — and later executed — for allegedly raping a white woman.

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