segregated bus

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.


December 1st 1955: Rosa Parks on the bus

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black seamstress from Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man. A member of the NAACP, Parks was returning home from a long day at work when the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat on the full bus for a white man. No stranger to civil rights activism, she was subsequently arrested for civil disobedience in defying the state’s Jim Crow racial segregation laws. Through this act of defiance, Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, during which time African-Americans - under the leadership of a young, charismatic reverend called Martin Luther King Jr. - refused to use the city buses, arguing that they should be integrated per the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. The boycott was successful in forcing Montgomery to end its discriminatory segregation laws, and marked the beginning of the main phase of what is now known as the Civil Rights Movement. From Montgomery, African-Americans across the United States went on to lead sit-ins, freedom rides, and political marches, in an attempt to bring an end to segregation laws which had oppressed their community for so long. These activists were all indebted to Rosa Parks - known as the ‘mother of the Civil Rights Movement’ - for her simple act of defiance, firmly asserting her humanity and her rights as an American citizen. As the movement grew, Parks remained an influential symbol and leader of the movement, which ultimately brought an end to legal segregation and forced Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts. As for Parks herself, the affair of her arrest and the subsequent boycott caused her to lose her job and made her a victim of harassment and threats. She moved to Detriot and in 1965 began to work in the office of Congressman John Conyers. In 1999, Rosa Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her role in transforming American race relations, and upon her death in 2005 she lay in state at the U.S. Capitol. Today, 60 years on, we remember Rosa Parks’s personal bravery, the successes of the movement she inspired, and the steps yet to be taken as the struggle against systemic racism continues.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day…No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in”

60 years ago today


Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (November 20, 1910 – July 1, 1985) was a civil rights activist, women’s rights activist, lawyer, and author. She was also the first black woman ordained an Episcopal priest. Born in Baltimore, she later moved to New York and obtained a degree in English in 1933. In 1940 she was arrested for violating Virginia’s segregation laws on a bus. This incident, along with her involvement in the socialist Workers Defense League to free a Black sharecropper from execution for killing his white landlord, led her to become a civil rights lawyer. She enrolled at Howard University’s law school where she, along with James Farmer and Bayard Rustin co-founded C.O.R.E. (Congress for Racial Equality) in 1942. 

While at Howard, she became conscious of sexism, or “Jane Crow” as she called it. As one of the few women law students there, she found herself the object not of hostility but of ridicule. On her first day of classes she was shocked to hear her professor announce that he didn’t know why women went to law school, but that since they were there, he guessed the men would have to put up with them. She responded with steely silence. “The professor didn’t know it,” she later wrote, “but he had just guaranteed that I would be the top student in his class.” 

After passing the California bar exam in 1945, Murray became the state’s first black deputy attorney general. It would be Murray’s 1950 book States’ Laws on Race and Color that NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall would hail as the “bible” of the civil rights movement, directly contributing to the 1954 Brown vs. Board decision. Respect for her mind did not improve her treatment by men in the movement however. In 1963, she became one of the first to criticize the sexism of the civil rights movement. In a letter to civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, among other grievances, she criticized the fact in the 1963 March on Washington no women were invited to make one of the major speeches or to be part of its delegation of leaders who went to the White House:

I have been increasingly perturbed over the blatant disparity between the major role which Negro women have played and are playing in the crucial grassroots levels of our struggle and the minor role of leadership they have been assigned in the national policy-making decisions. It is indefensible to call a national march on Washington and send out a call which contains the name of not a single woman leader.[x]

Murray lived in Ghana from 1960–61, serving on the faculty of the Ghana School of Law. She then returned to the US and studied at Yale Law School, becoming the first African-American to receive a J.S.D. from the school in 1965. Murray co-wrote the critical position papers on the E.R.A., Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the American Civil Liberties Union brief for the White v. Crook case, which successfully challenged all-white, all-male juries in Lowndes County, Alabama. In 1966 she was one of the founding members of NOW (National Organization for Women), but resigned when the white women of the organization failed to incorporate analysis of racial oppression into their activism.

[I’ve begun to] reassess my entire relationship to the women’s movement and to ponder how I can remain effective without exposing myself to humiliation, for it is humiliating to be deliberately excluded from participation in an area to which one has devoted many years of one’s life.[x]

In 1973, Murray left law and academia for the Episcopal Church, becoming a priest, and was the first Black woman named an Episcopal saint in 2012.


*Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown into jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus and give it to a white person. This is the second time since the Claudette Colbert [sic] case… This must be stopped.


Who is Claudette Colvin?

Happy Black History YEAR!

*Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955

Yalta Conference- USSR declares war on Japan after Germany’s surrender. USSR promised lost territory.

Potsdam Conference- Vague decisions on what happens to the lost/conquered territory after the war. Truman attends.

Satellite Countries Created- Countries in Eastern Europe that were heavily influenced by the USSR and Communism.

Iron Curtain- Figurative line between the Western non-Communist European countries and the Eastern Communist European countries

Containment Policy- US foreign policy with the steady goal of containing Communism (ideally, not defeating it, but preventing it from spreading).

Truman Doctrine- Political support for non-Communist countries in the Middle East and Eurasia (this includes supporting dictatorships).

Marshall Plan- Economic aid to European countries after WWII

NATO vs Warsaw Pact- NATO: band of Western nations (this was NOT the United Nations). Warsaw Pact: Band of USSR and its allies

HUAC- House (Of) Un-american Activities Committee.

McCarthyism- Senator Joseph McCarthy’s claim that he had a list of over 200 Communist working in the US government (or army).

Domino Theory- The theory that declared that if one European country “falls” to Communism, the others will commence to “fall” also.

Brown v Board of Education- A court ruling that declared Plessy v Ferguson  as unconstitutional.

Montgomery Bus Boycott- A 13-month mass protest that was sparked by Rosa Parks and ended in the Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was illegal.

Baby Boom- Period from 1945-1960 that experienced increased births and a lowered death rate. This encouraged a period of “have 2.5 perfect kids and move to the suburbs” type of conformity.

The Feminine Mystique- A book by Betty Friedan that sparked the second-wave feminism movement.

The Beat Generation- a rebellious movement composed of poets Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. Their works were primarily anti-materialism, anti-war. and anti-capitalism. 

On May 26, 1956, two female students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, sat down in the “whites only” section of a segregated bus in the city of Tallahassee. When they refused to move to the “colored” section at the rear of the bus, the driver pulled into a service station and called the police. Tallahassee police arrested Jakes and Patterson and charged them with “placing themselves in a position to incite a riot.” In the days immediately following these arrests, students at FAMU organized a campus-wide boycott of city buses. Their collective stand against segregation set an example that propelled like-minded Tallahassee citizens into action.

search for: Willhelmina Jakes, Carrie Patterson, FAMU, Florida civil rights movement



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspiration and a key figure in civil rights advancement in the United States and around the world as well. He was born Michael King and his name remained as that until a few years later when his father, also Michael King, changed his own name to Martin Luther King Sr. to honor a great protestant reformer. His son’s name was also changed to Martin Luther King Jr. M.L.K. Jr. was admitted to Morehouse College at the age of 15 and graduated at the age of 19. He received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology at the age of 26 at Boston University. In addition to being an American pastor, he was a humanitarian, activist and a prominent leader. Following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, he consistently used nonviolent methods in his lifetime. He married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953 and settled in Montgomery, Alabama.

Keep reading
The Ahead-Of-Her-Time Black LGBT Activist You Need To Know About

Every February during Black History Month, we recognize pioneers like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King who have pushed the civil rights agenda forward. However, the integral work of other activists is often ignored.
Rutgers University assistant professor Brittney Cooper joined HuffPost Live on Monday to discuss the exclusion of prominent black LGBT activists like Pauli Murray, who helped in the the progression of the civil rights movement.

Like Claudette Colvin, Murray resisted bus segregation but was considered too “controversial” to make a good publicity case for the NAACP.  Like Bayard Rustin, Murray (described here as a mixed-race woman) fought for both Black civil rights and LGBTQ+ rights.


Today in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested for violating Montgomery, AL segregation laws.
Parks’ arrest lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest lasting 381 days.

The famous boycott concluded when the outcome for Browder v. Gayle was upheld by the US Supreme Court, ruling that Alabama Bus segregation laws were unconstitutional - violating the Fourteenth Amendment.

Rosa Parks’ action that day serves as one of the watershed events of American history.


#BlackHistoryMonth 2014

CultureHISTORY: The Civil Rights Movement

They were everyday people who became warriors for justice. They did it to give themselves and their families a better life and they did it for us. Those future generations seemingly so far off in the distance. For us they endured the lynchings, the beatings, the rapes, the murders, the attacks, the daily humiliations. For us.

Today, it is on their shoulders we stand. #NeverForget

1. The American South

2. KKK flyer (Citizens Council) - New Orleans chapter

3.  New York City - Miles Davis, 32, was arrested after fighting with a patrolman who had ordered him to move from a crowded sidewalk. Davis was hit on the head with a blackjack for which an ambulance had to be called. (1959)

4. 1951 - Southeast Maids with their employers children. Photo by John Vachon, LOOK magazine series “The South”

5. Segregated bus in Texas c. 1950s

6. March on Washington, 1963

7. Civil rights protest, New York, 1964

8. Memphis, TN Sanitation Strike, 1968

9. A young activist teaching a woman to read and write so that she could vote, Virginia 1960. Photo by Eve Arnold

“Rosa Parks held no elected office. She was not born into wealth or power.  Yet sixty years ago today, Rosa Parks changed America. Refusing to give up a seat on a segregated bus was the simplest of gestures, but her grace, dignity, and refusal to tolerate injustice helped spark a Civil Rights Movement that spread across America. Just a few days after Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, a little-known, 26 year-old pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. stood by her side, along with thousands of her fellow citizens. Together, they began a boycott. Three-hundred and eighty-five days later, the Montgomery buses were desegregated, and the entire foundation of Jim Crow began to crumble.

Like so many giants of her age, Rosa Parks is no longer with us. But her lifetime of activism—and her singular moment of courage—continue to inspire us today. Rosa Parks reminds us that there is always something we can do. It is always within our power to make America better. Because Rosa Parks kept her seat, thousands of ordinary commuters walked instead of rode. Because they walked, countless other quiet heroes marched. Because they marched, our union is more perfect. Today, we remember their heroism. Most of all, we recommit ourselves to continuing their march.” —President Obama



In March 1955, a 15 year-old student named Claudette Colvin was arrested for disturbing the peace, violating segregation law and alleged assault when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As she yelled passionately about her constitutional rights, a police officer handcuffed the young woman and forcibly removed her from the vehicle, making her the first person arrested for resisting bus segregation in the city of Montgomery.

“I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, ‘Sit down girl!’ I was glued to my seat,“ she would reflect much later in life, speaking with a journalist for Newsweek about the incident.

Though Colvin’s arrest preceded Rosa Parks’ similar (and far more famous) refusal to move by approximately nine months, NAACP leaders expressed concern over using her to represent the movement. From their perspective, she was too young, she didn’t fit the right image, and to further complicate matters, she soon after became pregnant outside of marriage.

“I didn’t fit the image either, of, you know, someone they would want to show off,” she told NPR earlier this year. "I knew why they chose Rosa. They thought I would be too militant for them. They wanted someone mild and genteel like Rosa.”

Yet, while Colvin’s name may not regularly come up in US History lessons about civil rights, she contributed to the cause by serving as a key witness in Browder v. Gayle - the United States Supreme Court which ultimately deemed bus segregation unconstitutional.

December 1

In 1955, Rosa Parks did her small part to help change the world.

Everyone knows her story: She was a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, who was tired after standing on her feet all day and boarded the bus to ride home. Because she was tired, she sat down in the whites-only section of the segregated bus. The bus driver didn’t take kindly to that, and ordered her to move. She refused and was arrested. And from this single, spontaneous act of resistance, a social movement was born. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and it was a resounding victory for Ms. Parks and justice.

That’s the story most people know, anyway. Turns out that it’s a bunch of bullshit. Ms. Parks was the secretary of the local NAACP chapter and heavily involved in social justice for over a decade prior to the bus incident. Her case wasn’t so spontaneous–the NAACP and other Civil Rights Movement organizations had been looking for a case to bring regarding public transit segregation for a long time. And she wasn’t even sitting in the whites-only section of the bus. When she boarded the bus, she sat in the “colored-only” section in the back. As the bus filled up, the bus driver noticed several white people standing, stopped the bus, and moved the cordon segregating the two sections back; he ordered all four black people sitting in their seats to get up and let the white folks sit down. Three of them did; Ms. Parks did not. City law at the time did not explicitly segregate buses, but it did give drivers the authority to assign seats. I’ll let you guess what the white bus drivers did with that authority.

Ms. Parks also wasn’t the first person in Montgomery arrested due to public transit segregation transgression; a fifteen-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin held that distinction. And the case upheld by the Supreme Court invalidating the de facto public transit segregation in Montgomery was Browder v. Gayle, in which Ms. Parks was not even a plaintiff. This isn’t even going into the details of the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott itself. That was what brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to national prominence (and got him on J. Edgar Hoover’s watchlists for “agitation among negroes” and got the FBI involved in collecting dirt on the man). If you want to read about that, there are tons of great resources available; if you’re not already intimately familiar with the story, prepare your gob for a thorough smacking.

This is not to denigrate Ms. Parks’ contribution or her courage. It’s rather to talk about the myth we tell ourselves (white folks, especially) about the Civil Rights Movement in this country.

The myth goes something like this:

1. A long time ago, there was slavery down south.
2. Then there was a war, and slavery was over!
3. But there was still legal discrimination by white people against black people down south, and this was Bad.
4. Then one day Rosa Parks was tired and didn’t give up her bus seat.
5. Martin Luther King Jr. went to Washington and said “I have a dream.”
6. Everyone sang “We Shall Overcome”
7. And the Day of Jubilee was upon us!

Now, clearly, that’s a giant load of shit. But that’s the narrative. And the narrative is, sadly, resistant to facts. This narrative is especially resistant, because it lets people today feel good about themselves in comparison to those benighted fools of yesteryear, and it also confines the sins of the country to one geographically specific region, letting the rest of the country off the hook for the long and shameful history of redlining, employment discrimination, and so on.

It also ignores the long and shameful history of institutional discrimination in this country, a history that did not end with the March on Washington; it’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to get people to understand that there’s more than meets the eye when, say, cops routinely kill unarmed black citizens, but a 40-year-old white guy who has, earlier that day, SHOT AND KILLED A COP gets calmly taken into custody.

As far as that Day of Jubilee: Well, the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted until December 17, 1956. That was when the Supreme Court denied a motion for clarification and rehearing of Browder v. Gayle. The next day, someone fired a shotgun through Martin Luther King Jr’s front door. On Christmas Eve that year, a bunch of thugs assaulted a black teenager as she was getting off of a city bus. There were several sniper attacks. Yes–people ACTUALLY SHOT AT THEIR FELLOW AMERICANS for daring to be so radical as to ride the fucking bus alongside them. Black churches were bombed. The city of Montgomery passed even stronger segregation ordinances banning, basically, any contact between blacks and whites that might be considered amicable.

As for Rosa Parks? Well, as a known troublemaker, she was blacklisted from employment and the recipient of more death threats than you care to imagine. She moved to Virginia in 1957 to try to find work, and then to Detroit at the end of that year. But a vicious backlash to any kind of progress is certainly nothing new in this country.

The past is never over, people. It’s with us every day. It is our doom that we either cannot or will not recognize this.

Also, this photo is not a picture of Rosa Parks sitting in front of a pissed-off white guy from Alabama after the boycott. It was taken the day after the public transit system was legally integrated, but the gent pictured there is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter detailed to cover the event.

(Image via Wikipedia)

You think Rosa Parks was the first to be arrested, for standing up against the bus segregation? Check out Claudette Colvin she was the first, but they didn’t want to use her as the poster child of it, why? Well she was a young pregnant girl who wasn’t married and the NAACP didn’t use her, cause she would hurt the movement.


Today marks the 60th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Though she was not the first to resist bus segregation - preceded by Irene Morgan, Claudette Colvin and several others - Parks undeniably served as an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired,” she wrote in her 1992 autobiography. “But that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Parks’ many recognitions include the NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Upon her death in 2005, she became the first woman to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.
Before Rosa Parks, A Teenager Defied Segregation On An Alabama Bus

Claudette Colvin was a 15-year-old student from Montgomery, Ala., when she refused to yield her bus seat to a white passenger. But she has been largely forgotten in civil rights history.

Amazing listen, yesterday marked the 55 year anniversary of Claudette Colvin’s legendary resistance on that Montgomery Bus. Just a reminder that young folk have always led resistance, and there were radical folk who will often go unnamed throughout history that we should be more intentional about honoring. 

Salute Ms. Colvin!