MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Months before a Black seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus, thus etching her name into the history books, there was another who did the same. Her name? Claudette Colvin.
Tuesday, Steven Reed, Montgomery’s first Black mayor, marked the 66th anniversary of Colvin’s act.
Parks’ civil disobedience happened on Dec. 1, 1955 and paved the way for an organized boycott that lasted for more than a year. But it came nine months after a similar act of defiance by Colvin on March 2, an act that did not immediately spark a shift in the fight for civil rights but was no less important.
“While we celebrate the legacy of Mrs. Rosa Parks, it should never be forgotten that it was a teenager whose actions and whose determination was the first act to challenge the segregation of Montgomery buses,” Reed explained.
So why did Parks become the catalyst and face for the bus boycott instead of Colvin? The decision was a calculated move by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.
At the time, Colvin was just 15-years-old and the NAACP decided that Parks would be a better model to fight the segregated bus system. She was 42 at the time, married and the secretary of the NAACP.
That certainly wasn’t meant to diminish what the teen did, though.
“If Claudette Colvin had not done what she did on March 2, 1955, Ms. Parks may never have done what she did on December 1, 1955,” said Fred Gray, Colvin’s attorney, during an interview in 2018.
Colvin, 81, now lives in New York.
The mayor said his administration is now working with Colvin’s family “in order to make things right for her record and her legacy.” He did not provide any other details on how that would happen but said more would be announced in the near future.