A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
DECEMBER 1:

  • Happy birthday, Jan Brett (The Mitten).
  • In 1913, the Ford Motor Company introduced the first moving assembly line. Read Eat My Dust! Henry Ford’s First Race by Monica Kulling.
  • The first draft lottery since WWII begins in 1969 to enlist soldiers for the Vietnam War. Read 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War by Philip Caputo.
  • Cookie Cutter Week (Dec 1–7) begins today. Read Sugar Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jane Dyer.
  • Read a New Book Month begins today. You’ll get lots of recommendations from this here Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac!

Today has been designated Rosa Parks Day, marking her arrest on December 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. The incident sparked the yearlong Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott and is considered the beginning of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. But today, because of the research of author Phillip Hoose, we can honor along with Rosa Parks another individual who changed history in Montgomery, Alabama.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Claudette Austin was named after the popular movie star Claudette Colbert. A rebellious teenager, she possessed a bit more courage than her peers. On March 2, 1955, in her high school in Montgomery, Alabama, she had been studying the Constitution of the United States. Going home that day, this young black woman did the unthinkable. When the bus driver yelled for her to yield her seat to a white woman, she refused to get up. “I was thinking. Why should I have to get up just because a driver tells me to, or just because I’m black? Right then, I decided I wasn’t gonna take it anymore. I hadn’t planned it out, but my decision was built on a lifetime of nasty experiences.” Of course, in the South at this time, she was expected, even required, to defer to whites.

Even when confronted by policemen, Claudette shouted, “It’s my Constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare!” In Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, winner of the National Book Award, author Phillip Hoose presents the life story of this unsung heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. In his fascinating account, told mainly in Claudette’s own words, readers get to see the events of 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, from a different perspective—as they were experienced by a young girl. The book allows readers who have never known segregation to understand how it felt to be young and black in 1955. And when Rosa Parks was arrested on December 2, 1955, readers fully comprehend why the leaflet passed around that day read: “Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus.”

Since his book, We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History, Phillip Hoose has been exploring how teenagers can make a difference in the world. In Claudette Colvin, he brings to life one very special young woman, who truly made a difference in the Civil Rights Movement. Today we remember the contributions of Rosa Park and Claudette Colvin, both reminding us that individuals have the power to change history.

Here’s a passage from Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice:

The news that a schoolgirl had been arrested for refusing to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger flashed through Montgomery’s black community and traveled far beyond. One man from Sacramento, California, wrote to Claudette:

The wonderful thing which you have just done makes me feel like a craven coward. How encouraging it would be if more adults had your courage, self-respect and integrity.

In Montgomery, students stopped one another at bus corners and by their lockers, saying things like “Have you ever heard of Claudette Colvin?” “Well, do you know anyone who knows her?” “Where’s she go to school?”

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Originally posted December 1, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Civil Rights, History, National Book Award, Newbery, Sibert
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
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COMMENTS

  1. Anita, this piece is incredible!

    Even as a true follower, I had no idea that this child existed. What a heroine. What a role model. What a girl!

    Who knows how many kids along the way that she infected with the spirit of the movement, and how far her influence may have reached?

    She is indeed an important piece of the civil rights puzzle, and sadly, it is a puzzle that’s unfinished still. But with more children like Claudette Austin, who knows what dreams may come true?

  2. Mrs. O says:

    Wow ! i hadn’t heard of this young lady either ! I always talk to my students about Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, and so forth. Now I will be adding Collette to the list ! Thank you for sharing this !

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