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The “Other” Rosa Parks Talks About Why She Refused to Give Up Her Seat First

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By now, everyone knows all about the bravery of Rosa Parks.  Also, you may know about the bravery of another woman who will never get the same amount of attention: Claudette Colvin.  Those who know history realize that it was actually the then 15-year old Colvin who refused to give her seat up on the bus a full nine months before Rosa made her powerful decision.

Colvin did an interview with Democracy Now with Brooklyn College Professor Jeanne Theoharis, author of “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.”

Theoharis says Parks’ celebrated action may not have occurred had it not been for Colvin’s sacrifice many months before.   Colvin says that she was inspired to act after learning black history in school.

“I could not move, because history had me glued to the seat,” she said. “It felt like Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on another shoulder.”

Colvin says that Negro History Week left an impression on her that caused her to act:

Yes. What gave me the courage? All the unfair treatment that I had experienced in my early childhood. Plus, you remember, February, we celebrated Negro History Week, but our school did it for the whole month. So I had a whole month to talk about all the injustices.

 

Colvin says that after she was forced to leave the bus, the police were that much more forceful with her.

The police were called, and she remained defiant in the face of the threats she was facing.

And when they asked me the same question, and the gal, “Why are you sitting there?” I said, “It’s my constitutional right. I paid my fare; it’s my constitutional right.” And he said, “Constitutional rights?” And then one kicked at me, and when one—and he knocked the books out of my hand—out of my lap. And then one grabbed one arm, and one grabbed the other, and they manhandled me off the bus.

You should read more of her interview here.