Racial segregation in the United States: Claudette Colvin wants to wash her honor

Claudette Colvin laughs at a press conference after filing documents to have her criminal record struck out on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, in Montgomery, Alabama.

To his right is his civil rights-era lawyer, Fred Gray.

AP - Vasha Hunt

Text by: RFI Follow

2 min

Before Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin refused to give way to white people on a bus in the segregationist South of the United States.

For that, she had been arrested.

This Tuesday, Claudette Colvin, now aged 82, made an official request that her criminal record be purged of any mention of this case.


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In March 1955, the police forcibly dismounted Claudette Colvin, fifteen, from a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in the segregationist south while she was coming home from school: they had just arrested the young African-American for refusing to give up his place to a white woman.

They take him to jail.

When I heard the sound of the key in the lock, I started to cry, and I started to recite the 23rd Psalm

 " the Lord is my Shepherd "", Claudette Colvin, condemned to at the time for violating the city's segregation policy, and for assaulting a police officer.

An assault which the old lady says she has no memory of.

Only that she resisted, shouting "

 it's my constitutional right 

", because she had just had a lesson on the Constitution at school. 

Rosa Parks' image more "acceptable" to white America

Nine months later

Rosa Parks

 will also refuse to give up her place.

Claudette Colvin believes that if she has been put forward more in the civil rights movement, it is because she has been more "acceptable" to the white community because she is older, married, and lighter in skin.

At the time, Claudette Colvin was released on parole.

She was sentenced in a juvenile court, then jailed, before a sum was raised by figures of the local black community, including Rosa Parks, to pay her bail.

Today, she explains that she wants to have her name washed for her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and for black children, to show them that things can improve, and that progress is possible.


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  • United States

  • Racism

  • Slavery

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