Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
"In 1955, my junior year, Miss Nesbitt and Miss Lawrence team
taught Negro History Week. We really got into it. We spent that
whole February talking about the injustices we black people suffered
every day in Montgomery--it was total immersion...I was done talking
about 'good hair' and 'good skin' but not addressing our grievances.
I was tired of adults complaining about how badly they were treated
and not doing anything about it. I'd had enough of just feeling angry
about Jeremiah Reeves. I was tired of hoping for justice.
When my moment came, I was ready."
You almost surely know about Rosa Parks and her role in the
Civil Rights movement. You must recognize her refusal to give her bus
seat up to a white passenger and arrest as the motive for the
ridership strike that led up the desegregation of public transport.
What you may not know is that months before her public stand a 15-year-
old high school student had taken exactly the same action with
drastically different results. If this is news to you, be sure to
read Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.
Colvin's moment came that March. She and three schoolmates
boarded a bus. The white seats at the front filled up quickly. A
white woman wanted a seat. The three other blacks in the row got up.
That wasn't good enough for her.
Colvin wasn't going to take it anymore. She'd been studying her
constitutional rights. She'd paid her fare. There was a rule that a
rider didn't have to surrender a seat unless another was available...
...all of which meant nothing to the motorman and driver who
ordered her to stand and the police officers who dragged her off the
bus and threw her in jail.
Colvin was tried, found guilty on three charges, and placed on
probation. A lot of black people were angry. But it was decided not
to protest her mistreatment with a bus boycott. She was young and
considered emotional and possibly uncontrollable. The great aunt and
uncle who were raising her were a maid and a yard "boy" worker. The
family lived in a poor part of town. She was not considered a
Colvin now had a police record. Many of her high school
classmates ostracized her. An older married Korean War veteran took
advantage of her, leaving her pregnant. A good student with college
dreams, she was forced to drop out of school.
During the second month of the bus boycott called because of
Rosa Park's arrest Colvin was asked to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit
that would be tried in federal court. White people would retaliate
against her and her family with threats and violence...
...so read the book to see what happened.
On a personal note, I am proud to say I am now on the steering
committee of the Peace and Justice Center. I was picked for my
creativity and commitment. My first meeting was last Friday. After a
wonderful vegetarian pot luck feast we had speeches about departing
members and introductions of new members. Students gave a
presentation on their visions for hope. I read a poem I had written
for the occasion. We had a large group discussion on hope. At one
point someone wished for us to sing a song and I jumped right up and
led This Little Light Of Mine. :-) I think I am going to enjoy this
A great big shout out goes out to my Peace and Justice Center Community.
Sent from my iPod