Posts Tagged ‘Montgomery Alabama’
Most everyone knows Rosa Parks whose courageous action of not giving up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white passenger on December 1, 1955, helped launch the civil rights movement. Most people do not know Claudette Colvin who also refused to give up her seat on the bus — nine months before Rosa Parks.
On March 2, 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin remained seated when a white passenger boarded the bus and waited for her to move. She believed it her constitutional right to sit wherever she chose even though Jim Crow laws of the day dictated otherwise. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Claudette would later say, “I couldn’t get up that day. History kept me stuck to my seat. I felt the hand of Harriet Tubman pushing down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth pushing down on the other.”
Claudette Colvin’s arrest provided the spark needed to make a stand and provide a test case to end segregation on city buses. However, local African-American leadership thought otherwise. They believed Claudette would be perceived as too militant. Her image was not the one the movement wanted to cast. When she became pregnant a few months later, their belief was reinforced. Instead, Rosa Parks’ similar act of defiance would hasten the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott and lay the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.
Not until many years later would Claudette Colvin become more than just a footnote in history. Her role is not celebrated, but it is nonetheless pivotal. In a recent honor, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange called her “an early foot soldier in our civil rights.” Claudette Colvin stands alongside Rosa Parks — two women, two generations — taking a stand and helping to change history.
Sixty years ago today, on Dec 1, 1955, an African American woman named Rosa Parks was arrested on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her crime? Refusing to surrender her seat to a white man.
Her arrest as a result of this incident sparked a 381-day boycott of Montgomery buses by African Americans.
Even before the incident, Rosa Parks was an activist for civil rights, influenced by her husband, Raymond, and her grandfather. But her courageous stance on that bus in 1955 cemented her legacy as being the “mother of the civil rights movement.”
eLibrary has an abundance of information on this and other historic events in the civil rights movement, including these:
Imagine you go to your county clerk to register to vote. You complete the required registration forms and give them to the clerk. However, before being added to the voter roll, you are told you must pay a poll tax or pass a literacy test—a test with questions such as “How many county judges are there in the state?” or “Name each of the county judges in the state.” Many people, educated or not, would not be able to answer these questions. Scenes like this (as depicted in the recent movie Selma) played out in the South daily for many African Americans when trying to register to vote. Though the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the denial of the right to vote of any citizen based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude” by both the federal and state governments, it would be 100 years before African Americans had that right fully enforced.
Efforts to register black voters in Selma (Dallas County) Alabama began in 1963 with local organizers joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which banned racial discrimination and protected voting rights, African Americans continued to be disenfranchised at every turn. In the spring of 1965, at the urging of local activists, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined the cause.
On February 18, during a peaceful protest march, activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by a state police officer. He died from his wounds on February 26. His death would be the catalyst for the march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.
At Dr. King’s encouraging, supporters from all over the country came to Selma to march. The first march took place on March 7. Some 600 marchers would be attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by troopers and county locals armed with barbed-wire billy clubs and tear gas. John Lewis, one of the leaders, sustained a head injury. Another leader, Amelia Boynton, beaten unconscious, lay on the bridge. Images of the violence on Bloody Sunday as it would become known were seen worldwide. Two days later, instead of walking through the police presence which had moved to allow the marchers to pass, Dr. King led marchers back to Selma in order to receive federal protection for the march. That same night, James Reeb, a Unitarian pastor from Boston who had heeded the call to come to Selma, was murdered. The nation was outraged by what it had seen in Selma. In response, on March 15, President Lyndon Johnson before a televised session of Congress asked for the passage of a voting rights bill stating “the real hero of this struggle is the American negro…he has asked us to make good the promise of America.”
The final march to Montgomery began six days after President Johnson’s appeal. With federal protection, marchers walked 54 miles on Route 80 sleeping and eating on the side of the road. Arriving in Montgomery on March 24 and at the state capitol building on March 25, the group was 25,000 strong.
The Selma marches were pivotal in the civil rights movement. From the small town of Selma, Alabama one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation was born. On August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. The pressure of activists, many whose names are not known, resulted in the enfranchisement of millions of African Americans over the years.