The stain on the juvenile record of Claudette Colvin, whose dignified attitude on an Alabama bus, on which she refused on March 2, 1955, to give way to a white woman, has been cleaned up 66 years later. A judge in Montgomery, Alabama, ruled on November 24 that this arrest record be erased, an order that has been executed this Thursday. Colvin was 15 years old when the driver demanded that he get up from his seat. Now, with 82, he has managed to be agreed.
With that gesture, she became a pioneer in the fight for civil rights in the United States, although history did not grant her the honors that Rosa Parks did, who also staged that act of resistance nine months later. Police detained the girl and charged her with violating Montgomery’s segregation ordinance and assaulting an officer. They found her guilty of these crimes, although an appeal court overturned the conviction. Despite six decades, Colvin’s release remained conditional.
Last October, he began a process in a court in Montgomery, his hometown, to clean up his file. His lawyers explained that he was doing it for “justice.” In addition, they added, they hoped that this would recognize their crucial role “in the civil rights movement.” “I’m not doing it for me, I’m 82 years old,” he said then. “I want my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren to understand that their grandmother stood up for something important, and that it changed our lives a lot, it changed attitudes.”
The judge has given him the reason to understand that that act has gone down in history as “the brave gesture of someone who acted in the interest of his community.”
In 1955, the organization for the rights of African Americans (NAACP) had long been searching for an icon that could lead the fight against segregation in public transportation. They dismissed Colvin because of her defiant nature (she had to be beaten off the bus), because of her age, and because they felt that a single expectant mother like her could attract too much negative attention in a public legal battle and little empathy from the conservative black community. and of the whites.
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The interested party herself explained in 2009 in an interview in The New York Times I understood that they had opted for Parks (both ended up being friends), whose skin was lighter. “My mother told me to be quiet about what I did. He said, ‘Let Rosa be the only one. White people are not going to bother her, they will like their skin more than yours, “said Colvin, who added:” I knew [Parks] he was the right person ”.
Colvin became a mother in March 1956. That same year, she appeared as one of the four plaintiffs in the case. Browder contra Gayle, which led to a Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public transport unconstitutional. The Montgomery bus boycott fueled the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King and other community leaders that changed American history. He has lived in New York since the late 1950s.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.