The civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin, quien en 1955 refused to give up her bus seat for a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, is asking a court to expunge all records of her arrest, saying she was never notified that her probation was finished.
“I am an old woman now,” said Colvin, 82, in a sworn statement. “Having my records expunged will mean something to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And it will mean something for other Black children.”
Colvin refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks famously did the same, but her story has not received the same attention.
In interviews, Colvin has said Parks, who was older, married and light-skinned, was seen as more respectable.
A principios de este año, ella le dijo al guardián: "Ellos [local civil rights leaders] wanted someone, I believe, who would be impressive to white people, and be a drawing. You know what I mean? Like the main star. And they didn’t think that a dark-skinned teenager, low-income without a degree, could contribute.
“It’s like reading an old English novel when you’re the peasant, and you’re not recognised.”
Parks, quien murió en 2005, is recognised with a statue in the US Capitol.
Colvin was 15 when she and a friend, another Black teenager, were riding a bus in Montgomery. They were approached and told they needed to move to the back of the bus, away from two white women sitting nearby. Her friend moved but Colvin resisted, according to a contemporary police report.
Citing other great civil rights figures, Colvin le dijo al guardián: “History had me glued to the seat. It felt as if Harriet Tubman’s hand was pushing me down on the one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hand was pushing me down on the other. Learning about those two women gave me the courage to remain seated that day.”
Colvin was arrested for violating segregation laws, disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer. She managed to overturn some charges and was only prosecuted for the assault charge, according to the Associated Press.
Her case was sent to juvenile court, where a judge found her delinquent and gave her probation “as a ward of the state pending good behavior”. Colvin was never told when the probation ended.
After Colvin moved to New York, a la edad de 20, her family worried about what would happen if she tried to visit and faced additional punishment.
“Her family has lived with this tremendous fear ever since then,” said Phillip Ensler, Colvin’s attorney. “For all the recognition of recent years and the attempts to tell her story, there wasn’t anything done to clear her record.”
In her statement, Colvin said she wanted to see society progress.
“I want us to move forward and be better,” said Colvin in the court filing reported by CNN. “When I think about why I’m seeking to have my name cleared by the state, it is because I believe if that happened it would show the generation growing up now that progress is possible and things do get better. It will inspire them to make the world better.”
The Montgomery county district attorney will file a motion to support the expungement of Colvin’s record.