Claudette Colvin

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Alabama, U.S.
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Alabama, U.S.

Claudette Colvin was the first person to be arrested in Alabama for protesting against bus segregation. She is an African-American civil rights activist who dared to question the racism black people faced from a young age. As a poor child growing up in a bad neighborhood, she had seen racism and discrimination not only from white people but also from black African-Americans in her own community. Around the middle of the 19th century, most Americans still hold on to the racist idea that people with lighter skin were better. And Claudette isn’t just black, she’s a darker shade of black, so she was used to being treated differently. But she was not the type to give up on her right to be treated the same as everyone else. She was brave and bold from a young age. When she was just a teenager, she was the first person to protest against segregation on Alabama buses. She was accused of not following the rules about segregation, but she said she wasn’t guilty. This was the first time a black woman spoke out against bus segregation in public. But because of her age and other social factors, her pioneering work was never widely recognized or praised by the community.

Early years and childhood

She was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in King Hill. Her parents were C. P. and Mary Anne Colvin. Most people in her poor neighborhood had a hard time just doing everyday things. The area also had a bad name for being a safe place for drug addicts.

She was smart and interested for her age. Her rebelliousness was clear when she was young. She went to high school in the city at Booker T. Washington High School.

Even though she came from a poor family, she had big dreams and had written in a school assignment that she wanted to be president. She went to school and learned about the civil rights movement. She also joined the NAACP Youth Council.

When she was in school, something terrible happened that would stay with her for the rest of her life. Jeremiah Reeves, a black teenager, was caught having sexual relations with a white woman. When the woman was found, she said that Jeremiah had raped her, but he said that they had agreed to do it.

But back then, black people’s voices didn’t matter, so the boy was arrested, charged with being a serial rapist, and sentenced to death. After four years, he was put to death. This event showed Claudette how unsafe black people were in her city.

On March 2, 1955, she was going downtown on a bus from Capital Heights when a group of white people got on. At that time, black people had to sit in the back of the bus and white people had to sit in the front. She was sitting in the middle, and a white person who was standing asked her to give up her seat.

Even though she was only 15 years old at the time, Claudette knew that since she had bought a ticket, she could sit anywhere on the bus. So, she wouldn’t move, which made the bus driver, Robert W. Cleere, very angry.

Under Jim Crow laws, the driver could have called the police to get the girl to move. Thomas J. Ward and Paul Headley, two police officers, tried to get the girl to move. When she refused, she was hit and taken off the bus against her will.

When the police took Claudette to jail, she was scared. What would they do to her now? She was only a child, after all. She was furious that she was treated so badly just because she wouldn’t give in to a racist act.

She was in jail for three hours before her mother and Rev. H.H. Johnson, her pastor, came to get her out. She was found guilty of making trouble and breaking the law about segregation. But this event started a very heated discussion about the segregation laws in Alabama.

Later, she was one of the people who sued in the court case Browder v. Gayle, which led to the decision that Montgomery, Alabama’s bus segregation was against the law. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which agreed with the District Court’s decision. On December 20, 1956, Alabama was told to stop segregating its buses.

When she found out she was pregnant, the black community was beginning to see her as a leader in the African-American civil rights movement. Conservatives thought that making a pregnant woman who was not married an icon would not be a good idea, so she never got the attention she deserved.

Her Later Life

After she became a sort of public figure, it was hard for her to live and work in her hometown. So, in 1958, she moved to New York to live with her older sister.

She soon got a job as a nurse’s aide in a Manhattan nursing home. Before she quit in 2004, she had worked there for 35 years.

Works of note

She was the first black person in Alabama to speak out against the segregation of bus seats. But black civil rights activists didn’t see her as a leader because she got pregnant soon after the incident. This award was then given to Rosa Parks, a middle-aged woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus nine months after the Colvin case.

Personal History and Legacies

She had her first child when she was still in high school. In December 1955, a boy was born to her. While she was living in New York, she had another boy. She never got married.

Estimated Net worth

Claudette is one of the wealthiest Civil Rights Leaders and is on the list of the most well-known Civil Rights Leaders. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Claudette Colvin has a net worth of about $1.5 million.