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Alabama judge clears Black woman's record 66 years after she refused to give up her bus seat

Claudette Colvin
Posted at 8:52 AM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 14:03:14-05

Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin.

As a 15-year-old Black girl in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955, Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white girl.

But even after Parks' arrest inspired the Montgomery bus boycott and eventual repeal of the segregation of buses, Colvin's conviction for refusing to give up her seat remained on the books — until Thursday.

That's when Alabama Juvenile Court Judge Calvin L. Williams approved a request to wipe Colvin's record clean, clearing her of violating a Jim Crow-era segregation law.

According to NPR, a bus driver called the police on March 2, 1955 — nine months before Parks' arrest — after Colvin and another young Black girl sat near two white girls on the bus. After officers arrived, one of the girls moved to the back of the bus, but not Colvin.

A juvenile court judge later found Colvin in violation of segregation laws and placed her on probation "as a ward of the state pending good behavior." However, Colvin says officials never informed her that her probation ended, keeping her in fear that police could arrest her at any moment.

Now 82, Colvin's record was officially expunged during a short court appearance on Thursday. After the hearing, friends and family celebrated outside of the courthouse.

Colvin said her cleared record was important to her because of the message it sent to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"I want us to move forward and be better," Colvin previously said about her record expungement, according to CNN. "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."