Civil Rights Activist, Claudette Colvin, Fights to Clear Her Name: ‘It Will Mean Something for Other Black Children’

by Yah Yah

Claudette Colvin has filed a petition to have her record expunged more than 60 years after she was beaten by police and arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus.

She was just 15 years old at the time and a schoolgirl.

On March 2, 1955, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus. Colvin’s protest took place nine months before Rosa Park’s iconic Montgomery Bus Boycott.

At the time, the city bus system in Montgomery was segregated, as it was across the deep South. Black people also had to use separate water fountains and could only ride at the back of the bus.

Colvin, now 82, is credited as a civil rights pioneer. Colvin fought to keep her seat on the bus, kicking and scratching at police officers who physically removed her. Colvin was charged with assaulting a police officer.

It is this charge she is fighting to have cleared. Colvin has filed a petition to expunge that record.

“I am an old woman now. Having my records expunged will mean something to my grandchildren and great grandchildren. And it will mean something for other Black children,” Colvin said in a sworn statement.

She says her petition is bigger than her.

“I’m not doing it for me, I’m 82 years old,” she told The NY Times. “But I wanted my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren to understand that their grandmother stood up for something very important, and that it changed our lives a lot, changed attitudes.”

More than a decade ago, Colvin also told the publication that civil rights leaders decided to make Parks the face of the movement because her skin was lighter. Her mother also agreed.

“My mother told me to be quiet about what I did,” Colvin said in 2009. “She told me: ‘Let Rosa be the one. White people aren’t going to bother Rosa — her skin is lighter than yours and they like her.'”

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