Story at a glance:

  • Before Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat at age 15.
  • She fought an officer and was convicted with assaulting the law enforcer.
  • At age 20, she escaped the South in favor of New York, but it is not clear if her probation was completed or violated.

Before Rosa Parks was arrested for her civil rights action on Dec. 1, 1955, a Black teenager, Claudette Colvin, did something similar at a younger age on March 2, 1955.

At the age of 15 in Montgomery, Ala., Colvin refused to give up her seat near white girls on a crowded, segregated bus. She was arrested, convicted of assaulting a police officer and placed on probation. 


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However, at age 20, she escaped the South in favor of New York, where she resided for decades.

Now elderly, she is asking a judge to expunge her arrest record, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

“I am an old woman now. Having my records expunged will mean something to my grandchildren and great grandchildren. And it will mean something for other Black children,” Colvin, 82, said in a sworn statement.

Her attorney, Phillip Ensler, said the statement will be filed Tuesday with legal documents to seal, destroy, and erase her case records.

Close family members have worried about Colvin ever returning home to Montgomery because no court official stated her probation was properly complete.

“Her family has lived with this tremendous fear ever since then,” Ensler told the AP. “For all the recognition of recent years and the attempts to tell her story, there wasn’t anything done to clear her record.”

Colvin is now living in Birmingham until she plans on living with relatives in Texas.

Colvin will make her request to a juvenile court judge, since that's where she was judged delinquent and was put on a lifetime of probation, Ensler said.

Originally, Colvin and another Black teen stood their ground, refusing to move to the back of the bus, as was required by law. The police were called, but the other Black teen gave up her seat. Colvin resisted the officers, kicking and scratching one of them. 

She was convicted of violating the city's segregation law, disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer. 

She tried to appeal, but the assault charge remained intact.

“My conviction for standing up for my constitutional right terrorized my family and relatives who knew only that they were not to talk about my arrest and conviction because people in town knew me as ‘that girl from the bus,’” she told the AP.


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Published on Oct 26, 2021