March 29, 2013
At a ceremony unveiling a statue in her honor last month, President Obama called Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus a “singular act of disobedience.” But nine months before Parks’ historic action, a 15-year-old teenager named Claudette Colvin did the very same thing. She was arrested, and her case led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order for the desegregation of Alabama’s bus system. Now 73, Claudette Colvin joins us for a rare interview along with Brooklyn College Professor Jeanne Theohari’s, author of “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.” Theoharis says Parks’ act of defiance may not have happened if not for Colvin’s nine months before. Colvin says learning about African-American history in school inspired her act. “I could not move, because history had me glued to the seat,” she recalls telling the bus driver and the police officer who came to arrest her. “It felt like Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on another shoulder.