Do you recognize the name Claudette Colvin?
In 1955 she was arrested for refusing to give her seat to a White woman on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was 15.
Her classmate, Ann Price, described the incident. Price said the bus was crowded, the bus driver asked Colvin to get up, Colvin refused, and Colvin was forcibly removed from the bus, shouting.
Colvin recalled telling the bus driver, he had no right to make her move and said, “I just kept blabbing things out, and I never stopped. That was worse than stealing… Talking back to a White person.”
Colvin was charged with disturbing the peace, violating the segregation law, and assault.
This was nine months before Rosa Parks quietly refused to give up her seat on the bus to a White woman. But the Montgomery bus boycott began after the Parks arrest and not the arrest of Claudette Colvin.
The NAACP organizers believed that Parks was the ideal candidate to challenge the state’s segregation laws. Parks was an example of civil disobedience and Colvin displayed youthful defiance.
The lawyers strategically went with Parks.
But the NAACP organizers also believed they couldn’t persuade law-abiding citizens of the Black community to rally around the exploits of a “mouthy” teen, who eventually ended up pregnant.
What would have happened if the lawyers and the NAACP organizers didn’t strategize and the Colvin case was the catalyst for the Montgomery bus boycott instead of Parks?