Rosa Parks wasn't sole reason for bus boycott

Claudette Colvin
Claudette Colvin

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - There is a chance Rosa Parks may not have had the fortitude to keep her seat on the bus had it not been for a teenager by the name of Claudette Colvin.

Famed civil rights attorney Fred Gray was there and remembers.

"Claudette Colvin gave moral courage to Aurelia Browder, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King," Gray said.

It is here at Alabama State University where Gray and some of the major players in the civil rights movement celebrated the 55th anniversary of the bus boycott and the women who started it.

Ms. Colvin felt the need to share her story.

"I want the youths to know we resisted the Jim Crow laws," said Colvin.

As a 15-year old Colvin was arrested in early March 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman.

"I was arrested by two policemen.. they dragged me off and handcuffed and put me in the car," Colvin said.

9 months later Rosa Parks stood her ground on another bus yet it was Parks, not Colvin who became the face of the boycott.

One reason is because some civil rights leaders felt the time just wasn't right to challenge the law when Colvin was arrested.

"You can't go forward until you get people ready," said Gray.

It turns out Claudette Colvin became a key players in Gray's lawsuit.. Browder versus Gayle.. that in effect ended bus segregation.

Even though Parks was eventually named TIME magazine's 100 of the most important people in the 20th century and had streets named after her, Colvin found a way to bury any bitterness.

"All I ever wanted was to be treated equally," said Colvin.

Ms. Colvin moved to New York after her arrest because she couldn't find a job. Colvin retired in 2004 after working 35 years as a nurse's aide in a Manhattan nursing home.

Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, separated by events but rode into the history books together.

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