How many of you have heard of Rosa Parks? How many of you have heard of Claudette Colvin? That’s what I thought. Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, is well-known for being arrested by police for refusing to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955.
However, not too many people know that, just 9 months earlier, there was an African American teenage girl that was arrested for the very same thing. Why didn’t her name become as well known as Rosa Parks? And who was she?
Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice is the true story of Claudette Colvin, who was 15 when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman while on a Montgomery, Alabama bus on Wednesday, March 2, 1955.
Claudette was angry and scared, but extremely proud of herself that she had stood up for her rights. She had done something a lot of adults hadn’t done. News of her arrest and what she had done quickly spread. However, as news spread, people began distancing themselves from Claudette. Teachers, students, and community members were uncomfortable around her. She was facing serious criminal charges and if convicted, her dreams of going to college and becoming a lawyer would be gone.
That summer Claudette lost her court case. Over that summer she also met an older man who was one of the few people that listened to her-or so she thought. She ended up getting pregnant when she was 16. Once the school found out, she was expelled from school. Now everyone really turned their backs on her. She was viewed as a bad role model.
When Rosa Parks was arrested in December, 1955, and the African American community supported her, Claudette felt very betrayed. However, she rallied on. After Rosa Parks got arrested, there was a boycott of the Montgomery buses. During the boycott a lawsuit was filed (called Browder vs. Gayle) against the state of Alabama that said state imposed segregation on public facilities was unconstitutional. Because the lawsuit challenged the state laws, a Federal court had to hear it.
Claudette was asked to be one of the five plaintiffs. She agreed and was thus given a second chance to fight for justice. The court trial was very grueling, but Claudette was a star witness. On June 19, 1956, the judge’s decision was announced- that state-imposed segregation on public facilities was unconstitutional. Claudette and the other plaintiffs had won the case. However, no one called Claudette to say congratulations. Once again, she was shunned.
Even though Montgomery’s buses had been integrated, many people were upset with this decision. Within weeks after the decision, churches were bombed and death threats were received. It was a rough time in American history. I think this story is especially relevant to middle and high school students because it is about a teenager, not an adult, who dared to fight for freedom.
This book is extremely interesting. It’s frustrating, sad, and hopeful all at the same time. I think you will find it very inspiring. Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose.
Genre: Biography, Non-fiction
Themes: Montgomery Bus Boycott, African-American, segregation, Civil Rights, teenage girl, racism
Reading level: 6.8
Interest level: 7th-12th grade
Similar stories: any Civil Rights book
Link to Harvest Park Library catalog: Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice
Author website: Phillip M. Hoose