Saturday, February 04, 2006

Blackuary Four, A Legend and then a Myth

On Blackuary 4, 1913, Rosa Parks was born. Since everyone knows who Rosa Parks was, I shall concentrate on the reason for her importance in history and why it was incorrect. You see, she was not the one that got arrested first, she was just the best figurehead at the time. But, it did bring about significant change at the expense of the first person to refuse to give up her seat. 

Claudette Colvin was the person in question and she was being advised by Mrs. Parks. Her arrest preceded Rosa Parks' by nine months. Miss Colvin was a high school student at Booker T. Washington High School and was an active member in the NAACP's Youth Council.

When she was arrested on March 2, 1955, she was handcuffed and removed from the bus. The whole time, she screamed that her constitutional rights were being violated.

A number of the Civil Rights leaders at the time raised money for her defense and were sure this case would make it to the Supreme Court and be the starting point for equality. They were wrong. 

It seems that shortly after Miss Colvin was arrested, she managed to get pregnant by a much older married man. Coupled with the fact that she was prone to temper tantrums and bouts of profanity, Black Leaders began to back away from her case. 

Not to completely credit Miss Colvin's personality as the reason that they hung her out to dry, the majority of Civil Rights leaders of the day were Middle and Upper-Middle Class folks and Miss Colvin's poor upbringing led them to search for a better person to coerce into getting busted. The thing that I find funny is that none of the leaders other than Mrs. Parks were champing at the bit to get arrested.

Claudette received probation as her sentence for her "crimes."

Even though the NAACP abandoned young Claudette, she continued to fight for Civil Rights. On May 11, 1956, Claudette testified in another case that was brought to trial in Montgomery. Browder v. Gayle (Browder was a housewife, Gayle was the mayor) allowed Claudette Colvin to tell her story to people willing to listen to a poor, pregnant, Black girl, even when the NAACP wouldn't. 

And Happy Birthday, Mrs. Parks.