Today is the observed holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a clergyman and leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. I am not going to write a blog about Doctor King and his practice of non-violence to protest the racial injustices he, and millions of African-Americans, faced everyday in the United States. I am not going to quote Reverend King, from any number of speeches, in which his words express his passion of how he truly believed we, as a people, could make a conscience change for the better. I am not going to wax poetic about what his loss meant to the world at a time of great uncertainty in our history.
The reason I will not be writing an opus about Martin Luther King Jr is simply because many a better person before me has already said it with more conviction and passion than I could ever hope to achieve.
What I would like to talk about, or more specifically, who I would like to talk about is a woman by the name of Claudette Colvin. Most people, who know a little bit about Doctor King, have heard the name Rosa Parks at some point in their lifetime. For those of you who may need a quick history refresher, Rosa Parks was an African-American woman who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama public bus in December of 1955. Her protest was the spark that started the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was one of the first “victories” of the Civil Rights Movement. Public education touches on Rosa Parks and the significance of her non-violet protest, but I until recently, I had never heard the name Claudette Colvin.
I am not going to give a history lesson here, but I do want to make others aware of how amazing, I feel, this woman is. At age 15, still a student in High School, Miss Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama public bus. Sound familiar? The catch is, Miss Colvin took this stand back in March of 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks.
I cannot imagine the amount of courage it took for this 15 year old girl to refuse the bus driver’s demand to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus. After she refused the police were called and she was removed from the bus, handcuffed and taken to jail (not a juvenile detention center, jail). I wonder, if under those same conditions, I would have the bravery to do what is right, not what is easy.
Historians might argue that Claudette Colvin was never used as a pioneer for civil rights due to her young age or her questionable character. They may say that Rosa Parks was an older, established, model citizen and therefore a better face to put in front of the cameras. I do not care about those arguments. Both women are amazing in their acts of non-violent protest to show others what is right and what is wrong.
I am glad I have been made aware of Claudette Colvin. Her story is one of pride and courage that made a difference recently in my life. Although I have not done her story justice in a few lines of a blog, I hope, after reading this, at least one person decides to try and educate themselves about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin or the Civil Rights Movement. As the Reverend King once wrote: Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.