We’ve all heard of Rosa Parks, and rightly so. Her refusal to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
The very bus on which she rode is in the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, commemorating her actions and their importance in the history of the nation.
Have you, though, heard of Claudette Colvin?
Probably not. But you should have.
Nine months before Rosa Parks’ defiant actions, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin was riding a segregated bus home from school in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to give her seat up for a white woman.
Colvin was arrested and tried in juvenile court for her defiance. Her mother discouraged her from speaking publicly about her actions, preferring to let Rosa Parks take the spotlight.
I have to wonder, though: just how much did Claudette Colvin inspire Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat? And why aren’t we taught with equal admiration about this brave young woman who made her stand by remaining seated?
I am sure of one thing, though: I will be including Claudette Colvin in my lessons on the Civil Rights Movement from now on. My fifteen year old students need to know that nobody is too young to change the world for the better.