A 15 Year Old Icon

We all know the name of the amazing Rosa Parks, but recently I heard of Claudette Colvin. If you’re like me, you didn’t recognize that name. Claudette Colvin was the Rosa Parks before Rosa Parks. What do I mean you ask?

rosa parks

Rosa Parks is known for refusing to give her bus seat up to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested on December 1, 1955 as there were segregation laws in the south, and what she did was illegal. This kick-started the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was a key part of the Civil Rights movement and caused the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional. So yes, Rosa Parks was a badass, but Claudette Colvin did the exact same thing as Parks nine months earlier, yet we never hear her name.

claudette Colvin

Colvin was 15 when she refused to move to the back of the bus and give her seat up to a white person. The bus driver demanded her to get up and she refused, telling the man she’d paid her fare and it was her constitutional right. A quote from Colvin herself is “All I remember is that I was not going to walk off the bus voluntarily.” Moments later, she was handcuffed and arrested by two police officers. “I was afraid, but I was more angry.”

Colvin never really told her story when she moved to New York City, as no one in her community was taking about anything related to it. Colvin also shared the fact she believed Parks was chosen as the face for the bus boycott because she was a tidy, well off, adult. Colvin was a wild, and small teenager. While they both experienced racism, and had to deal with segregation in the south, Colvin was even less privileged than Parks. Colvin did the exact same thing, in the exact same place BEFORE Parks, yet she wasn’t the one everyone knew as the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Why I wanted to share Colvin’s story is because she’s so important to American history, yet she isn’t in textbooks, or talked about like Parks is.  If one little blog post can teach one person about her, then my goal is achieved. She was so young, yet so brave and strong. It’s inspirational to see someone only one year off my age (younger too) do something so dangerous and courageous.

Claudette as an adult

When I heard her story, I instantly loved her. I read so many articles and watched so videos of her now at age 69 talking about her story. She’s an incredible woman and I look up to her and her smarts and bravery. Colvin knew what she was experiencing was wrong, and she stood up against it. Us all should look up to Colvin and learn a lesson or two from her. If a 15 year old can do what’s right, so can we.


“I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it, You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.” —Claudette Colvin

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