Claudette Colvin (born September 5, 1939) is a African American woman from Alabama. In 1955, at the age of 15, she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white person, in violation of local law. Her arrest preceded civil rights activist Rosa Parks’ (on December 1, 1955) by nine months.
At the time, Colvin was a student at Booker T. Washington High School. Colvin’s family didn’t own a car, so she relied on the city’s gold-and-green buses to get to school. On March 2, 1955, she boarded a public bus and, shortly thereafter, refused to give up her seat to a white man. Colvin was coming home from school that day when she got on a Capital Heights bus downtown at the same place Parks boarded another bus months later. Colvin was sitting about two seats from the emergency exit when four whites boarded and the driver ordered her, along with three other black passengers, to get up. She refused and was removed from the bus by two police officers, who took her to jail.
“The bus was getting crowded and I remember him (the bus driver) looking through the rear view mirror asking her to get up out of her seat, which she didn’t,” said a classmate at the time, Annie Larkins Price. “She didn’t say anything. She just continued looking out the window. She decided on that day that she wasn’t going to move.”
Price testified on Colvin’s behalf in the juvenile court case, where Colvin was convicted of violating the segregation law and assault. “There was no assault,” Price said.
Colvin had been handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from the bus. She screamed that her constitutional rights were being violated. At the time, Colvin was active in the NAACP’s Youth Council, and she was actually being advised by Rosa Parks.