STORIES
Freedom Heroes

Claudette Colvin

by Maya from San Diego, California in United States

133687Teenage Claudette ColvinThe Visibility Project, Claudette Colvin [Public domain]“There are many reasons why Claudette Colvin has been pretty much forgotten. She hardly ever told her story when she moved to New York City. In her new community, hardly anyone was talking about integration; instead, most people were talking about black enterprises, black power and Malcolm X” (Margot Adler and Phillip Hoose). Once Claudette Colvin found out about the history of her culture, she took that into consideration while making history with her actions. Her courage and strength helped her to stand against racism in the 1950s. Claudette Colvin was born on September 5, 1939, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her biological father left her birth mother. Her mother was unable to provide for her and her younger sister Delphine. Soon her mother’s aunt, Mary-Ann, took both her and her sister in and gave them the name she shared with her husband, Colvin. In the 1940s the family lived in the Pine Level in a town near Montgomery. Later the family moved to a home in the King Hill section of the state capital. This is where Mary-Ann worked as a domestic and Q.P. worked for a landscape company. Soon after in 1952 Claudette’s sister, Delphine, caught polio and she died on Colvin’s 13th birthday. This affected Claudette drastically. So to keep her mind off she sister, she shoved herself into her school work. While Claudette was in school, she was not like the other students. She loved to read and study rather than hanging out with friends, and she earned good grades. She found inspiration from two teachers and loved to learn about history. By her junior year in high school she learned about the African Diaspora, and one of her teachers even taught a Negro history week unit. This inspired Colvin on the afternoon of March 2, 1955 (Claudette Colvin, Encyclopedia). A hero must possess traits like no others. Their courageous and strong attitude shapes them into who they are. To be courageous means to be brave when in times you would be scared or feel small inside. A hero must push that all aside to make a difference for others and themselves. Being strong means you are able to withstand great pressure or painful decisions. Claudette Colvin is a hero because she portrays strong and courageous attitude, which led her to learning more about African American rights, of which the world would have pushed aside or otherwise not been aware.

There are many traits that Claudette Colvin expressed in her time of hardship; one that stuck out was her courageous attitude. The article “Claudette Colvin” from the Encyclopedia of World Biography exposes her life growing up and all the choices she made. Her environment led her to taking a stand on the bus when she was 15 years old. “The transit officer consulted with Cleere and claimed he did not have the authority to arrest Colvin. Cleere drove the bus to the intersection of Bibb and Commerce Streets, where two Montgomery police officers were waiting. They also boarded the bus, ordered Colvin to vacate the disputed seat, and she refused again. Having lost her composure under the strain, she tearfully argued with the two white officers. 'I paid my fare, it's my constitutional right!' As she recalled of the moment to Hoose. 'One cop grabbed one of my hands and his partner grabbed the other and they pulled me straight up out of my seat'” (Claudette Colvin, Encyclopedia). Claudette’s courage may not have worked out in her favor and she did not get the end result she was looking for, but in her mind she knew she did the right thing. Her act demonstrated her courageous, brave and stubborn attitude. Her stubbornness and courage combined helped to resemble the rights she and all African Americans were striving to attain. Even though Claudette hardly said anything, it has been studied that your body can speak for you; that's exactly what Claudette let her body do. Even though Claudette was dragged off the bus and treated with no respect, she persevered through all the hardships that were thrown her way. She did not care that she was arrested and went to the county jail for her action on the bus. She was trying to prove that African Americans have rights too. She was not about to give up just because she was going to court dominated by white people. She was ready to fight for what was right. In the article “Claudette Colvin: An Unsung Hero in the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” “[a]ccording to the Montgomery Advertiser, Colvin said that she would not change her decision to remain seated. ‘I feel proud of what I did,’ Colvin told the Adviser. ‘I do feel like what I did was a spark, and it caught on.’ The arrest of Parks on Dec. 1, 1955, became the catalyst for the historic boycott, but some believe Colvin deserves recognition that has been overlooked for decades'” (Claudette Colvin). When Claudette took a stand for her beliefs, she knew what she was getting herself into, but it didn’t matter to her. Even though she was the only one on the bus to stick up for her rights and other African Americans, in her mind it was the best thing to do. It was vital for people to have a belief and advocate for what you know you have rights to. In this quote, Claudette expressed that she was proud of what she did, that she would have never changed her decision to remain seated. She was trying to express that regardless of the color of your skin, we are all still equals. Even though she never got the recognition she deserved, even with all the consequences resulting because of her actions, she still loved what she did. Claudette’s courageous act showed people that it was ok to believe in your own opinions. Even though she was treated horribly by people that didn't even know her that well, she didn't hide away in humiliation. She held her head high and pushed forward to achieve a better outcome. Eve though Claudette didn't get the recognition she deserved, in her mind she did the right thing no matter what the outcome was.

1336921955 bus designLars-Göran Lindgren Sweden [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)Not only does Claudette Colvin portray her courageous attitude on the bus, but she shows her strength through it all, even after she was arrested. When Claudette was a teenager, she was learning about African American rights. Since she knew what her rights were during the time on the bus, when she was asked to move and she didn’t, “The driver ordered Colvin and the three other teens to vacate their seats in the middle section for the white woman. The motorman looked up in his mirror and said, 'I need those seats...' she said years later to biographer Phillip Hoose in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. 'We had been studying the Constitution in Miss Nesbitt's class. I knew I had rights.... But it wasn't about that. I was thinking, Why should I have to get up just because a driver tells me to, or just because I'm black? Right then, I decided I wasn't gonna take it anymore'” (Claudette Colvin, Encyclopedia). Claudette Colvin displayed her strength by standing up for herself and not giving up her seat. When Claudette was a child she was learning about the Constitution in school, so she knew what her rights were. Not giving up her seat was her way of expressing the rights she knew she had. She stood for what was right; even though everyone was against her, she stood her ground and stood up for her beliefs and the knowledge she knew was correct. After Claudette got out of jail she was stared at, not spoken to, and judged for the actions she took. Others in the community didn’t and couldn’t understand what was going through Claudette’s mind at that time. But she didn’t care what others thought. Her strength burst out of she skin and her stubborn attitude finally was a benefit, she wanted to make a difference. While Claudette was in custody at the police station, word spread fast. In the article “Before Rosa Parks There was Claudette Colvin,” the author expressed through hardship how her strength helped her persevere. “After Colvin's arrest, she found herself shunned by parts of her community. She experienced various difficulties and became pregnant. Civil rights leaders felt she was an inappropriate symbol for a test case” (Adler and Hoose). After Claudette was arrested, she was ignored by the community. She had to persevere during this time of hardship so she could move on with her life. As difficulties continued to come her way, she showed great strength by picking up her life and adding to it so it could become better. Her positive attitude, strength and hard-working attitude got her through the challenges that were thrown in her face and made the better out of them. To be ignored by people and friends you have known for your whole life can be difficult, mentally and physically. Claudette had no one to talk to. Every time she went out, she was stared at with a shocking look of disappointment rather than a shocking look of happiness. She had to push through these hard time to move on with her life. She had a goal that she wanted to accomplish in her life and she wasn’t about to let people ignoring her get in the way. The strength Claudette expressed on March 2, 1955, should not be viewed as a mistake but as a turning point in African American rights history.

Claudette Colvin is a hero because she portrays her strong and courageous attitude, which led her to learning more about African American rights of which the world would have pushed aside or otherwise not been aware. Claudette Colvin always found a way to get through the hardships in her life, She didn’t just sit back and let white people take the wheel. She wanted to be able to do what she wanted to do; she wanted to be an equal. She didn’t give up on fighting even after she got arrested. She got ready to fight in court and say what she had to say. Claudette Colvin is an inspiration to me because she always persevered through the things in the way of her life. Whenever she was knocked down she got right back up like it never happened. She wasn’t trying to starts a fight or cause any trouble; she was trying to display her thoughts and give her opinion on African American rights. She worked her hardest to change the way people thought about African Americans. Claudette lived in a racially divided part of the South, where African Americans were historically treated dreadfully. Claudette Colvin exemplified strength by standing up for not only herself but her entire community, whose rights were suppressed by the local government. She proved that her simple, courageous act propelled further actions that eventually inspired the civil rights movement. Therefore, this unsung here has become a hero to me.

Work Cited

Adler, Margot, and Phillip Hoose. “Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin.” NPR, NPR, 15 Mar. 2009, www.npr.org/2009/03/15/101719889/before-rosa- parks-there-was-claudette-colvin.

"Claudette Colvin: an unsung hero in the Montgomery Bus Boycott." Jet, 28 Feb. 2005, p. 12+. Biography In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A129368420/BIC?u= powa9245&sid=BIC&xid=4350d468. Accessed 29 Apr. 2019

"Claudette Colvin." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, vol. 36, Gale, 2016. Student Resources In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K1631010445/SUIC?u= powa9245&sid=SUIC&xid=7abf1611.

Page created on 5/13/2019 10:20:51 PM

Last edited 7/24/2019 3:26:44 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Claudette Colvin Biography - A biography written about Claudette Colvin about her life growing up and the struggles she went though. These struggles soon led to her act of courage on a bus going home from school.
BBC: Claudette Colvin - BBC's insight on a 15-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin and the action she took to stand up for her rights on the way home from school.