On this day (March 2), Claudette Colvin became the first person to challenge the racial segregation in intrastate public transportation. Nine months prior to Rosa Parks, 15-year-old Claudette refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Educated about black history and her constitutional rights, Claudette recalls years later, “I couldn’t get up that day…History kept me stuck to my seat. I felt the hand of Harriet Tubman pushing down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth pushing down on the other.” Ms. Colvin was one of four women plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama.
Colvin’s story had long been muted within the civil rights era narrative. In 2009, Phillip Hoose gave voice to Colvin’s story with his book: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Hoose’s book is available for purchase in the Schomburg Gift Shop.