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. 



  1. Harold

    March 31, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    They tell us who our leaders are and we go with it. Without integration, we would have known about Ms. Colvin sooner.

  2. corbin56

    March 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I have always known that someone else first refused to give up her seat but I never knew her name. Ms. Colvin, thank you.

  3. Michael C. Evans

    March 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Any time there is history written…One has to look at the writers…Ms Parks a Lovely Light Skinned Black Woman…Ms Colvin A Beautiful dark skinned Black woman…Who gets the award?…Just sayin…America has been color conscientious since the beginning…They are yet attacking President Obama with a vengence…But If He were Darker He would never have even won the election…Trust Color is a factor…and America sees COLOR even within…Believe this “America is accepting of Black people but the lighter the skin the more accepting they are…

    • ButchU

      March 31, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      so right in your analysis.

    • Akbar

      April 1, 2013 at 1:15 am

      Seeing color is natural as is seeing the color of someones hair as an attribute of them. The problem not the colors, or shapes we see, but what we attribute to it that is negative.

      • Misty

        April 1, 2013 at 11:43 am


  4. Melanin

    March 31, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    While this is very important to know, let us not be in a posture of measuring and gauging the significance of Ms. Claudette Colvin’s truly heoric stance vs Mrs. Rosa Parks. Both demonstrated great courage during the Jim Crow era. Both are to be exalted for the stance they took during a time when it was detrimental for a person of color, when they did not obey the laws of segregation that were established in the southern states. Kudos to Ms. Colvin and Mrs. Parks. I thank you and all of the unsung heros who champion the cause for racial justice and equality.

  5. shirl1

    March 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    You just need to read your black History facts folks, like she did. And there also was another woman from Va., that actually did the same.
    Now search your Black History Facts, and find out who she was.

    It was meant to happen the way it was,and she is not bitter at all about
    it, she understand how the wheels of justice works. You can go online
    Black History and find out just about anything u want o know
    about Black History, Google it !!

    • Really???

      March 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      I agree with Melanin, Michael and shirl1: I’ve known this truth for quite some time. And while it takes absolutely nothing away from Ms. Parks, Ms. Colvin should be recognized as the pioneer she was at such a young age. Cudos to you, Ms. Colvin. There are so many things that have made life so much better for so many people and they have not be recognized for their great contributions to American society. I have always tried to teach young girls and boys of color (yes, BEFORE they grow up to become men and women) to ALWAYS, always study your own history. It’s good to know all history, but you truly have to know where you (meaning our forefathers) have been, in order to decide where you are going. If you fail to know your own history, you are doomed to repeat it.

  6. george sand

    March 31, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    The reason that we are so familiar with the behavior of Rosa Parks is not because she was the only person, or even the first person, to “stand up” against Jim Crow laws. The reason is because it was the act performed by her which led to the bus boycott and that drew the attention to Rosa Parks. There usually are many unsung heroes, and it is good to know about Claudette Colvin and her courage. Also, it is interesting that she was a youth and inspired by Black History Week.

    • Akbar

      April 1, 2013 at 1:20 am

      Well said. Pastor Jemison also tried to march long before the SCLC, King, Lewis, and Abernathy, down in New Orleans but there was never any momentum that carried over to Alabama, or Mississippi. But the SCLC knew that what they had done was the right thing and they had resources and a young seminary graduate looking for something to do, and he found it!

  7. Lenora KIng

    April 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    We must equally applaud all in the fight for our rights. Ms. Parks’ husband was active in the fight for rights in their area. It was already planned for her to keep her seat. She was NOT tired. our history is always being wiped out and/or redone to suit public opinion. Every drop of blood spilled, every hangman’s noose, every racially charged incident in out stories should and must be retold before they are forever lost.

  8. brodie n

    April 2, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    So much of our history is hidden,and will never be disclosed. There are ‘others” who refused to give up their seat,or who refused to give up their Land, their dignity and their Faith Their education and the list goes on and on.As late as the 50s i saw and witnessed blacks who refused to give up their seats for those who felt superior.. We must remember that all those who fought the fight of civil right,fought on the backs of those who preceded them..It is through oour history,written and unwritten[oral] that we learn more.. Thank God for mrs. Colvin,So happy to add her name to or rich history..and the many others who’s name we may never know..

  9. CeCe

    April 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I heard many years ago that Rosa Parks was not the first Black woman to give up her seat.

  10. blacjk jones

    April 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Knowing black folk –I was always suspicious of this Story i knew their had to be some one (many someones) before Rosa— I think Lena Horne was also suppose to be an appointed representative of our race —We needed light skinned blacks at that time it was the way to go. I’m sure it had many side affects for the black representatives as well as the darker skinned blacks.

  11. TAS

    April 6, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    While their levels of historical recognition may have been different , at the moment each of these wonderful women bravely refused to give up their seats, the amount of courage exhibited was exactly the SAME…

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