She Refused To Give Up Her Seat, And Still Has A Criminal Record

a young claudette colvin
Zain Murdock
February 28, 2023

In 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was charged with assaulting a police officer after refusing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Later, she became a star witness in Browder v. Gayle, which effectively integrated the busing system. This is how she should be remembered.

But there’s a huge problem.

She still has a record nearly 70 years after her activism. Now a mother and grandmother, Colvin is fighting to clear her record, and solidify her place in history. But why was this still on her record in the first place? And why do so many still not know Claudette Colvin’s name?

From colorism to texturism to shaming her for her teen pregnancy, Colvin’s story was neglected in favor of the more “respectable” Rosa Parks. And her record stuck. 

But will it get expunged?

Yes.  Montgomery County’s chief prosecutor sided with Colvin, whose family worried for years that police could arrest her whenever they wanted, failing to officiate the end of her probation. So for a while, Colvin worried that the answer would be no. And not without reason.

How can the criminal legal system bring us justice today when it's still so behind on repairing the injustices of yesterday? It can’t. Colvin undoubtedly deserves this joy, but unfortunately the system will continue to generate new records, and new brutalities, tomorrow.

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