Monday, July 22, 2024

Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin


On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving her bus seat to a white man. At the time, in several states in the southern US, black citizens like her were only sitting at the back of buses and forced to move or perhaps get off the bus when there were not enough seats for white passengers. The parks’ refusal and arrest convinced the African American community to boycott the city’s bus system for nearly a year, leading to the desegregation of public transportation in Alabama.

Parks’ gesture and its consequences made her famous all over the world, and inspired many films, books and songs. In 1999 Parks – who died in 2005 – was credited Congressional Gold Medal, which is the most prestigious civil recognition that a US citizen can obtain: in official law it is recognized as “the first lady civil rights.” But Parks was not the first person in Montgomery to rebel against racial discrimination laws, also known in the United States as Read “Jim Crow”. Nine months earlier, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old black girl, had been arrested for breaking the same city code and charged with assaulting a police officer. For these charges, she was sentenced to parole, without receiving notice of revocation or termination of the sentence. Today Colvin is 82 years old and a month ago he was Requested to the Montgomery County Juvenile Court to clean up his criminal record.

“My schoolmates and I usually took a special bus that was intended for black children. […] But on March 2, 1955 we were out of school early, I think because of a meeting between the teachers. “We walked to the center and took the city bus back home,” Colvin said. written announcement Accompany the petition filed in court. After a few stops, the front space of the bus was full and the driver and her companions told her to clear the front row from the back section to make room for a white girl—the others moved, while she remained seated. Colvin said in the statement that she was “pulled off the bus, handcuffed and taken to the cell,” without mentioning the charge of assaulting the policeman.

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in a Article on the site CNN He added that he resisted arrest and shouted, “This is my constitutional right!” For the assault, the Montgomery court—which had overturned juvenile court convictions for violating segregation rules—confirmed the sentence by giving her an indefinite probationary period, tied to maintaining good behaviour. “As far as I know, the parole has not been rescinded,” Colvin now wrote, although his attorney has made it clear CNN that the probationary period ended instead when Colvin turned eighteen, although she did not receive any official communication at the time.

Colvin’s story immediately caught my attention National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the first and most important civil rights associations in the United States, and other similar associations that decided, however, not to organize any political action, despite their search for the right figure to lead protests against racism. Segregation on Montgomery Buses.

In fact, Colvin was 15 years old at the time of his arrest and shortly thereafter it was discovered that she was pregnant. “[I membri dell’organizzazione] They said they didn’t want to use a pregnant teen because it would be controversial and people would talk more about pregnancy than boycotting,” Colvin said. BBC.

Civil rights activist Gwen Patton explained years ago guardian That the decision of the NAACP board of directors was also a collective decision, related to the fact that Colvin lived in a “little cottage” and came from a working-class family. always in guardianEd Nixon, president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, admitted that Rosa Parks’ subsequent protest offered the organization the right person to start the protests: “a married woman, morally clean and of fairly good academic preparation.” Parks was also the secretary of the NAACP and Claudette Colvin for some time Tell To meet her during one of the youth activities organized by the NAACP.

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In another interview with Washington PostColvin added that in addition to having the “right background”, Parks had a lighter skin tone than her own, and thus the chance of being discriminated against by members of her community and other citizens (called discrimination”)coloring“).

Over a year after the arrest, Colvin was contacted by the NAACP and asked to participate as a plaintiff in the court case named Browder v. Gayle (William Gayle was the mayor of Montgomery), along with four other women who later did not abide by segregation laws on buses City: Aurelia S. Browder, Susie MacDonald, Mary Louise Smith and Janata Reese (Reese retired after racial intimidation and threats). Parks did not participate in the complaint because she was involved in her trial at the time, which was being systematically slowed down and risking many years and complicating others as well. On June 5, 1956, the district court ruled that segregation of buses in Alabama was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court confirmed the same sentence on December 17, 1956, and three days later the Montgomery bus boycott, inspired by the Parks gesture, ended.

After testifying at that trial, Colvin stayed for another four years in Alabama, where he struggled to find work. “I have always been fired when my employers found out I was the ‘girl,’ who was sitting on the bus,” she said in her statement last month. She then moved to the Bronx, New York, where she lived most of her life without letting others know of her arrest, returning to visit her family in Alabama in the summer, but always with the fear that she would be arrested by the police for a parole violation (after being expelled from the store where she worked In it in Montgomery, Parks also moved first to Hampton, Virginia, and then to Detroit).

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Colvin has been living in a nursing home in Birmingham, Alabama for some time, but the idea of ​​moving to Texas with her son and grandchildren led her to petition to have the sentence removed from her criminal record before moving, and to get justice. Historical records. The judge in charge of the matter announced that the ruling would be overturned. For at least twenty years, Colvin and his family have also tried to recognize and appreciate his role in the history of the civil rights movement.

In 2000, Colvin refused To appear in a video dedicated to Rosa Parks Museum Montgomery, explaining that the museum’s name has already chosen which story to tell. In 2016, Colvin and members of his family requested that his arrest be made inside National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington she did not accept.


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