Standing Up For What's Right In The Face Of Adversity


“Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others” (Suzy Kassem). That is why Claudette Colvin stood up for herself and others. Claudette Colvin was a 15-year-old African-American girl who walked to a bus station in Montgomery after school with her friends, who were also African-American. Claudette and her friends were asked to stand up and get off of the bus for white people. Her friends stood up but not her, she was escorted off of the bus very rudely and aggressively. Claudette remained seated on the bus because of negative treatment based on race, segregation laws being unfair, and a violation of her constitutional rights. 

One reason Claudette did not give her seat upon the bus was because of the negative treatment based on race. She received her own unfair treatment based on her skin color. Claudette said in an interview that she heard others who had been treated unfairly and she wanted to help change that so she remained seated and gained attention for the poor treatment she received thus helping her cause (C. Colvin, personal interview, 2019). Some examples of the unfair treatment were kids being treated unfairly at schools, people not being able to use certain facilities and slavery. Also, she explained why she did not stand up. Claudette said it was a middle-aged white woman who was capable of waiting, she said she felt like she was being treated less important because of skin color and would have moved if it were an elderly lady (Colvin, 2015). She was treated unfairly and pulled off the bus aggressively because of her skin color being “worse” than that of the white woman, and she wanted these kinds of things to change. Finally, in the same interview, she talked about how she was treated at restaurants with her family and did not want to be treated like that anywhere else so she remained seated to make a point that it was unfair to treat people poorly based on their race (Colvin, 2015). She wanted things to change and she felt like this how it would change. So all in all, Claudette remained seated on the bus because of negative treatment due to race and her desire for it to change. 

A second reason Claudette stood up for what was right and did not give up her seat was that segregation laws were unfair and she wanted to be a leader and help change them. Claudette wanted to be a leader and change things such as segregation laws. Claudette wanted to end segregation laws because African Americans got harsh treatment for not following them. For example, the convictions she received because of not following segregation laws were extremely harsh and included the following: violating segregation laws, misconduct, and resisting arrest just because she would not give up her seat. Another reason why she wanted to be a leader and change this is that the segregation laws were unfair and ridiculous. Examples of this include African Americans being forced to move for a white person or not being served at a restaurant, as Claudette said happened to her family. Finally, she wanted to change things for others and herself. When Claudette was asked to move there were four other girls she walked to the bus station who were asked to move as well (O. Waxam, article 2019). She said that she did not want anyone to have to go through this anymore so she sat down to make a stand and hope things would change (C. Colvin, personal interview, 2019). To sum it up, Claudette stood up for what was right and did not give up her seat because segregation laws were unfair, she wanted to help end segregation laws, and she wanted to change for herself and others. 

The third reason Claudette did not stand up on the bus was that she knew her constitutional rights and other leaders stood up (C. Colvin, personal interview, 2019). Claudette said in an interview that they were learning about rights, and leaders in school and on the bus she felt like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were pushing down on her shoulders to stay in the seat, “I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, 'Sit down girl!' I was glued to my seat.” (C. Colvin, personal interview, 2019). She also said that she knew everyone was created equal. So, she stood up for what was right so that everyone could be the same she hoped. Another reason she remained seated was that she knew her constitutional right of everyone being created equal. She said that in an interview “I knew everyone was created equal because that was what we were learning about.” (C. Colvin, personal interview, 2019). A final reason, related to leaders and constitutional rights, why Claudette did not give up her seat was because she wanted to be a leader like the ones she was learning in school. She did not give up her seat because she knew it was what a leader would do, and she wanted to be a leader like (C. Colvin, personal interview, 2019). In summary, Claudette did not give up her seat because she knew what her constitutional rights were, she wanted to be a leader, and she felt like leaders were holding her down.

The main reasons why Claudette remained seated on the bus were, she knew her constitutional rights, segregation laws were unfair, and she was treated negatively. You can also see how perfectly Claudette exemplified the quote said by Suzy Kassem perfectly, “Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others”. She was the stronger person and stood up for others by fighting negative things when she remained seated such as segregation, negativity based on race, and unfair segregation laws. Now that you know how someone else stood up for what was right, are you ready to stand up for what you believe in next time you need to?

Works Cited

Adler, Margot. "Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin." NPR.org, NPR, 15 Mar. 2009, www.npr.org/2009/03/15/101719889/before-rosa-parks-there-was-claudette-colvin. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

Editors, Biography.com. “Claudette Colvin.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 2 Mar. 2020, www.biography.com/activist/claudette-colvin. Accessed 18 December 2020

Rumble, Taylor-Dior. "Claudette Colvin: The 15-year-old Who Came Before Rosa Parks." BBC News, 10 Mar. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/stories-43171799. Date accessed 18 December 2020.

Shetterly, Robert. “Claudette Colvin.” Claudette Colvin | Americans Who Tell The Truth, 2020, www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/claudette-colvin. Date accessed 18 December 2020.

Waxman, Olivia B. “The Montgomery Bus Riders Who Came Before Rosa Parks.” Time, Time, 2 Mar. 2020, time.com/5786220/claudette-colvin-mary-louise-smith/. Date accessed 18 December 2020.

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