IN HONOR OF CLAUDETTE COLVIN FOR HER COURAGE DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN HISTORY; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 183
(Extensions of Remarks - November 15, 2019)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1455]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




 IN HONOR OF CLAUDETTE COLVIN FOR HER COURAGE DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS 
             MOVEMENT AND CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN HISTORY

                                 ______
                                 

                     HON. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                       Friday, November 15, 2019

  Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ. Madam Speaker, I rise to recognize Claudette 
Colvin, an American Civil Rights pioneer, who on March 2, 1955, at the 
age of 15, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up 
her seat to a young white woman passenger, becoming one of many to be 
arrested for challenging Montgomery's bus segregation policies. Nine 
months later, Rosa Parks was famously arrested for performing the same 
act of defiance. Although there were hundreds of people arrested before 
Claudette and Rosa Parks, Claudette along with Aurelia Browder, Susie 
McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith, were the first to challenge the law in 
the Alabama courts.
  Prior to her historic 1955 stand against racial injustice, Claudette 
had been studying Black leaders like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth 
during Negro History Month in her segregated school. Claudette's 
classroom conversations led to discussions around the current day Jim 
Crow laws she and all her peers were experiencing. In describing the 
significant moment when a bus driver ordered her to give up her seat to 
a young white woman, and she refused, Claudette says: ``Whenever people 
ask me: 'Why didn't you get up when the bus driver asked you?' I say it 
felt as though Harriet Tubman's hands were pushing me down on one 
shoulder and Sojourner Truth's hands were pushing me down on the other 
shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us 
about them in so much detail.''
  After a year-long battle in the courts, being ostracized by her peers 
and the community, an older man befriended her, and she became 
pregnant. In addition, she was a 15-year-old teenager, from a low-
income family, and she had very dark skin. Therefore, the leaders 
deemed Claudette inappropriate to be the face of the Bus Boycott.
  Claudette's heroic story was nearly forgotten by history. The story 
of Claudette illustrates how the role of women in the Civil Rights 
movement has been largely overlooked. Her actions led to monumental 
progress in our nation's history. Not only that, her heroic actions led 
to the rise of other great African Americans. If not for Claudette's 
brave act, there may not have been a Thurgood Marshall, Robert L. 
Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Rosa Parks. She truly paved the way 
for our nation's history.
  Claudette, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith 
were among the four women plaintiffs to testify in the federal court 
case filed by civil rights attorney Fred Gray on February 1, 1956, as 
Browder v. Gayle. On June 13, 1956, the three- judge panel that heard 
the case in the United States District Court determined that the state 
and local laws requiring bus segregation in Alabama were 
unconstitutional. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, 
which upheld their ruling on December 17, 1956. Three days later, the 
Supreme Court issued an order to Montgomery and the state of Alabama to 
end bus segregation. This order not only ended bus segregation in 
Alabama, but also impacted public transportation throughout the Unites 
States, including airplanes, taxis and trains.
  In 1987, The 100th Congress designated March as ``Women's History 
Month'' in honor of the tremendous contributions of women to society, 
and to recognize that despite these contributions, the role of women in 
history has consistently been overlooked and undervalued in our history 
books. Claudette is testament to the fact that we are still discovering 
new accomplishments of historical women, and we will continue to shine 
a light on these amazing icons for years to come. Though their historic 
acts of civil disobedience were separated by nine-months, Claudette and 
Rosa Parks remain intertwined in the same movement. Claudette knew Rosa 
very well, was active in Rosa's youth group, and considered Rosa an 
inspiration to her own beliefs and actions. Rosa and Claudette's 
mother, Mary Jane Austin (Gadson), grew up together in Pine Level, 
Alabama. Her mother used to play with Rosa and her brother Sylvester at 
Ms. Leona's house, Rosa's mother. Rosa also knew Claudette's great 
grandfather, Gus Vaughn, who has been mentioned in several of her 
books.
  Madam Speaker, I ask our colleagues to join me in recognizing Ms. 
Claudette Calvin's courage to stand in the face of injustice and demand 
her recognition of her inalienable rights. Because in her own courage 
to fight for her freedom, she paved a path for millions of others to do 
the same--because it was her constitutional right.

                          ____________________