Newswire : Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up bus seat to a white person in 1955, has juvenile record expunged

Claudette Colvin


By Marlene Lenthang, NBC News

The juvenile record of civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin has been expunged, 66 years after she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus to a white woman. 
Colvin was just 15 when a bus driver asked her and other students to give up their seats on March 2, 1955. The act of defiance was nine months before Rosa Parks’ similar bus protest.
After Colvin refused to budge, she was arrested and charged violating the city’s segregation law, disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer, Associated Press reported. The first two charges were dropped, but the assault charge remained on her record. 
Colvin, now 82, filed a petition in October to have the record of the arrest cleared.  Montgomery County Juvenile Judge Calvin Williams signed the order to expunge her records on Nov. 24, his office confirmed to NBC News. 
Williams granted the petition for good cause “for what has since been recognized as a courageous act on her behalf and on behalf of a community of affected people,” he wrote in the order.
Speaking on the decision, Williams told NBC News: “It’s really a full circle moment for me to sit on the bench, when there were no judges of African American descent on the bench to right a wrong that was perpetrated on her at the time.”
“I appreciate the Judge’s decision to do it and that means that, I’m no longer, at 82, a juvenile delinquent,” Colvin said in a press conference Tuesday.
“My reason for doing it is because I get a chance to tell my grandchildren, my great grandchildren what life was like in segregated America … The hardship and intimidation that took place in those years and the reason I took a stand to defy the segregated law,” she said. 
In an affidavit attached to the petition to clear her records, Colvin revealed why she refused to move on that fateful day.  “History had me glued to the seat,” she said in the affidavit. “Sitting there, it felt to me as though Harriet Tubman’s hand was on one shoulder pushing me down and Sojourner Truth’s hand was on the other.”
Colvin revealed that she took that city bus by chance that day because school was let out early. She normally took a special bus designated only for Black children, according to the affidavit. She also said she was thinking of Black History Month and what she learned in class when she refused to give up her seat in the colored section of the bus. 
Colvin was sentenced to probation pending good behavior, but was never told when her probation ended, the affidavit said. Her notorious bus arrest changed her life — but also besmirched her name in Montgomery. She said she was fired from jobs “over and over again” after her bosses “found out that I was ‘that girl’ who had sat on the bus,” she said in the affidavit. “I was notorious and employing me was a liability,” she said. 
Her arrest also left her family terrorized. Even after she moved to New York, her family would worry when she came home to visit because “they were afraid of the consequences of having her there,” she said in the affidavit. 
Colvin continued to fight for civil rights throughout her life. She was one of four plaintiffs, along with Rosa Parks, in the landmark Browder V. Gayle Supreme Court decision in 1956 that ended bus segregation in Alabama.
“A measure of justice was served. And it’s important to note that it’s a very late measure of justice,” Leah Nelson, an investigator in Colvin’s case for expungement, told NBC News. “There’s no way to give Ms. Colvin back what was taken from her. But it matters that the Court is holding itself accountable publicly. And I hope we’ll see more of that in Alabama.”

Newswire: Civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin wants to clear her court record in Montgomery

Claudette Colvin at 15 and now

By: Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser

Claudette Colvin was 15 was she was arrested and given indefinite probation for refusing to surrender her seat on a segregated Montgomery city bus, nine months before Rosa Parks.
Now she’s 82 and a resident of an assisted living facility in Birmingham, and she’s lived her life with that probation, which was never lifted.
That could be about to change. Colvin plans to file a petition Tuesday in Montgomery Juvenile Court to have the records associated with her 1955 arrest expunged, attorney Phillip Ensler said. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated busing the year after Colvin’s arrest, and she was one of four plaintiffs in that case.
Fred Gray, her original attorney, will be beside Colvin as she files the petition Tuesday.
Ensler said the push has been led by Colvin’s sister, Gloria Laster. He said because she was placed on “indefinite probation,” her family was always fearful when she came back to visit Montgomery and did not realize the probation ended. Ensler said they want the court to formally clear her name.

“No one ever told her or her family once she became an adult, ‘Hey you’re no longer on probation,’ ” Enser said. “… It made her and her family feel like she’s always going to be under the eye of the government.”
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey and state Rep. Merika Coleman all plan to be on hand at the filing, Ensler said.
Colvin was charged at the time with assaulting an officer as she was forcibly removed from the bus. She told the Montgomery Advertiser in 2019 that she didn’t remember attacking police, but she remembers other details — like white officers debating her bra size and the sound of the key locking her in the cell.
“As a teenager, that’s when I became really scared,” Colvin said at the time. “In an old Western, when the bandits are put in the jail, you can hear the sound of the key go ‘click.’ I could hear the sound when the jailer locked it. I knew I was locked in, and I couldn’t get out. I started crying. I started reciting the 23rd Psalm.”
Before filing to clear her record, Colvin will join Gray at the Tuesday dedication of a Montgomery street that’s being renamed in his honor.
Colvin’s former attorney grew up on Jeff Davis Avenue in Montgomery, a street named for the president of the Confederacy. The Montgomery City Council unanimously voted in October to rename it Fred D. Gray Avenue, despite potentially violating a state law that was enacted in 2017 to protect Confederate monuments.

Newswire: Rosa Parks: Remembering her resilience, resistance in the face of racism

By:  Clarissa Hamlin, Newsone

Rosa Parks seated on bus; Rosa Parks mugshot after arrest

Rosa Parks, befittingly called the “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement,” sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott with one special move 65 years ago: staying in her seat.
Her move, simple in delivery but stellar in impact, represented a refusal to relinquish her seat to a white passenger when bus driver James F. Blake demanded that she do so in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 1, 1955. Blacks were known as colored, and inferiority was the superior thought about African Americans at the time of Parks’ burgeoning resistance. She, like so many Black people, was tired of being resigned to second-class status because of racism.
On that day, Parks’ resistance was right. Yet, the courageous woman, 42, was arrested and briefly locked up, handcuffed by the stigmatization of segregation. Parks’ revolution was racialized and publicized. Threats and caveats alike were thrown her way, but proved futile.
The activist summed up her feelings about that heavily documented day in her “Rosa Parks: My Story” autobiography in 1992: “I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Parks, the secretary of the Montgomery NAACP chapter at the time, was not the first woman to refuse to vacate her seat. Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith and other women were arrested for their resistance of the segregated bus system. A small boycott snowballed into a major boycott that lasted more than 300 days, starving revenue for the Alabama buses operations.

Colvin, Parks and the other female protesters, along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in solidarity with one another, supported a major legal case, Browder V. Gayle, that caused a reversal in course pertaining to bus segregation in 1956. Black folks won the agency to sit in whatever seats they wanted, a right that should have been there’s from the start.

Parks, who died in 2005 at the age of 92 in Detroit, Michigan, will forever be remembered for her role in the revolution in Montgomery. There is a statue of her at the base of Dexter Avenue, six blocks from the Alabama State Capito and a museum downtown to honor her.