Sherlock + Children


Claudette, 2014, Hotel Potocki, Paris. 

by Charlotte Abramow

Claudette is 74 but she has a 6-year-old child’s soul. Her youth and her joy of living taught me that beauty was timeless. I wanted to show a naked body as it is, a naked body we don’t usually see. The body is only a shell - you’ll be beautiful forever as long as you will be happy. Thank you Claudette for making me understand that.

When asked why she is little known and why everyone thinks only of Rosa Parks, Colvin says the NAACP and all the other black organizations felt Parks would be a good icon because “she was an adult. They didn’t think teenagers would be reliable.”

She also says Parks had the right hair and the right look.

“Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class,” says Colvin. “She fit that profile.”

As she told The Guardian in 2000, “It would have been different if I hadn’t been pregnant, but if I had lived in a different place or been light-skinned, it would have made a difference, too.

After Colvin’s arrest, she found herself shunned by parts of her community. She experienced various difficulties and became pregnant. Civil rights leaders felt she was an inappropriate symbol for a test case. Words like "feisty”, “mouthy”, and “emotional” were used to describe Claudette while her counterpart Parks was seen as calm, well-mannered, and studious.

Colvin was one of four women plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama.

In 2005, Colvin told the Montgomery Advertiser that she would not have changed her decision to remain seated.

“I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on.”… "I’m not disappointed,“ Colvin said. "Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.”

In 2013, Colvin was honored by the New Jersey Transit Authority for her part in the fight for civil rights. At the event she declared, “That was one of the first successful stories of how African Americans stood together united and got this law changed, so I’m so proud to be here to tell everyone my story. I can say—like James Brown—‘It feels good!’…. to get recognition.”

Colvin’s story is missing from our official history is an insult to the courageous women and young people who helped change the course of our country.