The Woman Civil Rights Leaders Threw Under a Bus
Remembering Claudette Colvin: Black History Month is the perfect time to get our history right.
BY: ABDUL ALI
DEMOCRACY NOW SCREENSHOT
Every year during Black History Month, Rosa Parks’ name rolls off the tongues of schoolchildren and educators around the nation as they discuss the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Yet the lesser-known Claudette Colvin, whom media outlets have referred to as “The Other Rosa Parks,” still remains absent from any teachings. The historical amnesia that surrounds Colvin is indicting for its revelation of how much the white gaze did and still controls how we remember history and select our icons.
At age 15 Colvin was a bookish, bespectacled young woman who was fascinated by lessons about Africa and Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth during Negro History Week at her school. On March 2, 1955, Colvin says, she channeled the spirit of Sojourner and Harriet when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a Montgomery, Ala., bus nine months before Rosa committed the same defiant act. Colvin points out in interviews that the white woman was young and had an available seat opposite her in the same row, but given the Jim Crow custom, there couldn’t be any suggestion that the races were equal, so Colvin was asked to get up. But she did not.