Months before Rosa Parks made history in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus, a young Montgomery, Ala., student challenged injustice by doing the very same thing.
But Claudette Colvin, who was 15 at the time and pregnant by a married man, was hardly the test case person local leaders were looking for to launch their civil rights campaign. Those at the forefront of of campaign felt that there had to be a carefully orchestrated plan to spark the movement.
So Colvin was relegated to the footnotes of history. I have only heard of her about a month ago. But now some 66 years later she has reemerged and is being credited long after the battles were won.
Colvin kicked off Black History Month on Monday by recounting her story to students at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx, New York, reminding them that they are never too young to make history of their own.
“We still have a long way to go,” Colvin told a crowd of elementary and middle-school students who had assembled at the school.
"I consider myself a survivor. So many people were lost.”
Bronx City Councilman Andy King said he wanted Colvin to share an unfiltered version of history so that children could take civil rights to the next level.
“She was the inspiration for the civil rights movement. You are in the presence of living history,” King told the children. “She is a pioneer.”
Students walked away feeling inspired to make their own changes.
“She was brave and very strong. I could not believe they put her in a jail for adults. She was almost my age,” said Ishah Diop, 13, an eighth-grader at the Learning Tree school in the Bronx.
“She overcame so much. But she remained empowered.”
Learning Tree student Phillip McCoy, 15, said he hopes to be part of the change Colvin started.
“She was very inspirational. I hope to one day grow up and practice the things they taught us,” he added.