Exceptional Education at the Heart of the Community

A little story about Claudette Colvin
A photograph of activist Claudette Colvin

When we look at things that have happened in the past, it can be quite simple to see the obvious results but also very easy to overlook the small, detailed steps it takes to achieve those results.

Most of us either forget or are unaware that the Black Civil Rights Movement isn’t something one person or one group single-handedly devoted their life towards. It’s something that only together we were able to fight for, something that only union brought attention to the public, something that only bravery made the masses believe in. And with belief, unity, and devotion, we can drive change.

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black woman got on a segregated bus in Alabama, taking a seat in the ‘white’ section. As more passengers kept getting on, the driver ordered black passengers that were seated to stand up so a white man could sit. Rosa Parks refused. – To many, this significant figure is recognised as the first to ever boycott the buses - but she wasn’t the only one.

Other women had also refused to get off their seats before Rosa Parks. However, most of the women who had shown courage in this way, had been quietly fined or their story went unshared.

On her way home from high school, March 2nd, 1955, when told to get up off her seat, Claudette Colvin, aged 15, refused, saying she had paid for her fare, and it was also her constitutional right. Two police officers then forcefully removed her from the bus. "All I remember is that I was not going to walk off the bus voluntarily,”[1] said Colvin. On that day her class had been studying about the injustices they were experiencing, the oppression they went through and about the black leaders that led the movement. Colvin expressed that her head was just full of black history; all she could think about was the oppression she had to go through.

At the time, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and other black organisations felt that Colvin was too young to be at the forefront of the movement, and the other women before Rosa Parks would not have gained as much support as she did. Parks was well-known, respected, and an inherently impressive person, therefore seen as an ideal leader.

This month symbolises how strong not only the leaders, but also the followers were in the movement towards racial equality. The people who supported those that took action, the people whose stories are unheard of but played a massive part in changing and in transforming the world, the people who were so scared but felt like they had to do something to protect their friends and family.

This month we want to tell the stories of those like Claudette Colvin and ensure these stories never go unspoken.

 


[1] https://www.npr.org/2009/03/15/101719889/before-rosa-parks-there-was-claudette-colvin

Hannah Skinner