Claudette Colvin Was a Catalyst In the Civil Rights Movement — Where Is She Now?

Haylee Thorson - Author

Feb. 3 2023, Published 12:34 p.m. ET

Claudette Colvin
Source: Getty Images

The Montgomery bus boycott is often synonymous with American activist Rosa Parks. However, civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin preceded her. In March 1955, nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, 15-year-old Colvin did the same thing.

Now 83 years old, Colvin’s courageous actions shape her legacy. In celebration of Black History Month, read on to learn more about Claudette Colvin’s inspirational background and where she is now.

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Claudette Colvin now: She recently took action to clear her arrest record.

In 2021, Claudette Colvin was living in Birmingham, Alabama. However, she planned to move to Texas to live with her family in October of that year. She has five children and six grandchildren and is a retired nurse aide.

Claudette Colvin
Source: Getty Images
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Also in 2021, Colvin decided it was time to clear her name. At 82 years old, the activist filed for the expungement of her arrest record from 1955. Colvin’s motivation was to remind her grandchildren that change is possible.

“I want them to know that their grandmother stood up for something—against the injustice in America,” she told Oprah Daily. “The laws will change, and a lot of people, not only myself, paid the price and made sacrifices.”

On Nov. 24, Montgomery County Judge Calvin Williams granted Colvin’s wish. Williams signed an order to seal and destroy all court records of Colvin’s arrest in 1955.

“With my background, being born and raised in Montgomery and West Montgomery and in the projects, raised by a single mother, it gives me a different lens,” Judge Williams said when discussing his decision to clear Colvin’s name.

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Claudette Colvin, 82, speaks alongside Civil rights attorney Fred Gray
Source: Getty Images

Claudette Colvin played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Claudette Colvin is an 83-year-old American civil rights pioneer and retired nurse’s assistant. Born in 1939, Colvin was one of the first Black women to challenge Alabama’s bus segregation laws.

At age 15, Montgomery police forcibly arrested the young civil rights activist for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Despite being a teenager, the police put her in an adult prison cell.

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Civil Rights Icon Claudette Colvin clearing her name
Source: Getty Images

Colvin’s arrest occurred in March 1955, nine months before the arrest of Rosa Parks and the subsequent December Montgomery bus boycott.

“When a white woman got on the bus and the driver told me to get up from my seat so she could sit down, I felt that [Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth] each had a hand on my shoulders pushing me down,” Colvin told Oprah Daily.

“History had me glued to the seat. The police dragged me off the bus, handcuffed me, and took me to jail.”

In 1956, Colvin served as a plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, a lawsuit involving Montgomery’s bus segregation laws. The case went to the Supreme Court and upheld the district court’s decision to end bus segregation in Alabama.

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