The juvenile court record of a Black woman who was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white woman in 1955 has been expunged. A judge ruled on the case of civil rights pioneer Claudette Colvin on Thursday (Dec. 16); sealing, destroying and expunging the record.
“I want us to move forward and be better,” she wrote in the filing. “When I think about why I’m seeking to have my name cleared by the state, it is because I believe if that happened it would show the generation growing up now that progress is possible and things do get better. It will inspire them to make the world better.”
As a 15-year-old, Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama just nine months before civil rights icon Rosa Parks was also arrested for the same reason.
“I said I could not move because history had me glued to the seat,” she told CBS Mornings on Thursday. “It felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hand was pushing me down on the other shoulder.”
Colvin was charged with disturbing the peace, violating Montgomery’s segregation ordinance and assaulting a police officer; and was convicted of the latter. Her legal team says she was placed on an “indefinite probation” and was never notified when it ended.
The following year, 16-year-old Colvin was one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle case, a Supreme Court ruling that ended bus segregation in Alabama.
Montgomery Judge Calvin Williams granted Colvin’s motion to seal the court record, which he said was for “what has since been recognized as a courageous act on her behalf and on behalf of a community of affected people.”
“I’m no longer a juvenile delinquent at 82,” Colvin said on Thursday. See her interview with CBS, in which she meets Judge Williams, below.
When she was a teenager in 1955, Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a White woman, nine months before Rosa Parks did the same and her record was never expunged.
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) December 16, 2021