Court Battles

Civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin asking judge to expunge 1955 arrest record


An 82-year-old Black woman who as a teenager was convicted of assaulting a police officer while refusing to move to the back of an Alabama bus in 1955 is asking a judge to clear her record, according to The Associated Press.

Phillip Ensler, who is representing Claudette Colvin, told the AP the motion will be filed Tuesday along with court documents to seal, destroy and erase the records regarding her case.

“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’s sworn statement said, per the AP.

At the time, Colvin received probation but was never notified when she finished her term. Though Colvin left Alabama for New York five years after the incident, she was fearful of returning to the state as she was unaware that her probation was over, the wire service reported. 

“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, who now lives in Birmingham, Ala., will make her request to a juvenile court judge because that is where she was determined to be delinquent and placed on probation, the AP reported.

In the 1950s, Black riders on the Alabama bus system were required by law to move to the back. Rosa Parks garnered the attention of the world when she refused to give up her seat to a white man in December 1955. Colvin had done the same thing months before, in March, but received less attention at the time.

The Hill has reached out to Ensler for more information. 


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