We are all familiar with the story of Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist best known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus to a white man in 1955. Her actions lead leaders in the black community to organize a boycott. It seems that Rosa was not the first to refuse to give up her seat. In 1954, just nine months prior to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman and was arrested at the young age of 15. Because of her age, the NAACP did not want to use her case to confront segregation laws. Claudette was one of four plaintiffs in the Browder v. Gayle case which led to a ruling that stated that Montgomery’s segregated bus system was unconstitutional.
For many years, Montgomery’s black leaders did not publicize Colvin’s pioneering efforts because she was an unmarried teenager at the time and was reportedly impregnated by a married man. The leaders did not think this would go over well so they decided not to publicize this event. Rosa parks are noted as saying. “If the white press got ahold of that information, they would have [had] a field day. They’d call her a bad girl, and her case wouldn’t have a chance.” Ms. Colvin is a retired American nurse aide and now resides in Birmingham, Alabama.