Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin.
One of the pleasures of Womenâ€™s History Month is meeting women whom you never knew had made history. Joining the ranks of female crusaders this year is Claudette Colvin, a figure who proved that women â€“ or rather, girls â€“ have what it takes to make a difference.
Phillip Hoose tells her story in a new book for tweens Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.
If you havenâ€™t heard of Colvin, youâ€™re hardly alone. A newspaper article referencing her role in the civil rights movement got her last name wrong â€“ and this just nine months after she spurred Montgomery, Ala., to rebellion.
But Iâ€™m getting ahead of myself.
Hoose begins by placing Colvinâ€™s life in the context of Jim Crow laws: Colvin grew up in 1940s and â€™50s Alabama where racial prejudice ran deep. Before she even knew her ABCs, she knew the societal differences between being black or white.
But Colvin wasnâ€™t content to rail against social injustices in private. Her moment came on March 2, 1955, when she was a mere 15 years old. Frustrated with the segregation laws that ruled the Montgomery bus system, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Colvin was arrested; the city was electrified.
Although Hooseâ€™s book primarily focuses on Colvinâ€™s story â€“ from her bus protest in 1955 to her role in the landmark court case that brought an end to segregated busing on Dec. 21, 1956 â€“ thereâ€™s also plenty of general civil rights history for context and enrichment. Readers are introduced to a young, fiery orator by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. And they meet a well-respected seamstress and head of the Montgomery NAACP. Her name? Rosa Parks.
Whatâ€™s most interesting of all about Hooseâ€™s book is his explanation of why it was Parks, and not the teenage Colvin, who became the heroine of the Alabama bus boycott. And yet, Hoose also shows how Colvinâ€™s stand for justice built the foundation for Parksâ€™s later act.
True, itâ€™s a story that may have been taken for granted in 1950s Alabama. But today, thanks to Hoose, a new generation of girls â€“ and boys â€“ can add Claudette Colvin to their list of heroines.
Jenny Sawyer regularly reviews childrenâ€™s books for the Monitor.