Cover image for Claudette Colvin : twice toward justice
Title:
Claudette Colvin : twice toward justice
ISBN:
9780374313227
Edition:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Melanie Kroupa Books, c2009.
Physical Description:
133 p. : ill. ; 24 x 22 cm.
Contents:
First cry: Jim Crow and the detested number ten -- Coot -- "We seemed to hate ourselves" -- "It's my constitutional right!" -- "There's the girl who got arrested" -- "Crazy" times -- "Another Negro woman has been arrested" -- Second front, second chance -- Playing for keeps: Browder v. Gayle -- Rage in Montgomery -- History's door.
Reading Level:
1000 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
Summary:
Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.
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Summary

Summary

"When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can't sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, 'This is not right.'" - Claudette Colvin

On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge segregation again as a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle , the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.
Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.

Claudette Colvin is the 2009 National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature and a 2010 Newbery Honor Book.


Author Notes

Phillip Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, songs and articles. Although he first wrote for adults, he turned his attention to children and young adults in part to keep up with his own daughters. Claudette Colvin won a National Book Award and was dubbed a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009. He is also the author of Hey, Little Ant , co-authored by his daughter, Hannah, It's Our World, Too! , The Race to Save the Lord God Bird , and We Were There, Too! , a National Book Award finalist. He has received a Jane Addams Children's Book Award, a Christopher Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, among numerous honors. He was born in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up in the towns of South Bend, Angola, and Speedway, Indiana. He was educated at Indiana University and the Yale School of Forestry. He lives in Portland, Maine.


Reviews 6

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) It's 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin is in the thick of things. She refuses to give up her seat on the bus (nine months before Rosa Parks) and is also one of the plaintiffs in the federal case that ends segregated buses, yet her story remains largely unknown. Hoose fashions a compelling narrative that balances the momentous events of the civil rights movement with the personal crises of a courageous young woman. Because Claudette was young, pregnant, and unwed, it was the more respectable Rosa Parks who was thrust into the national spotlight as the face of the movement. But Claudette's story is no less inspiring, and Hoose reasserts her place in history with this vivid and dramatic account, complemented with photographs, sidebars, and liberal excerpts from interviews conducted with Colvin. Recent books have done a commendable job of exploring the civil rights movement beyond the iconic figures of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks -- A Dream of Freedom by Diane McWhorter, Freedom Riders by Ann Bausum, Freedom Walkers by Russell Freedman -- and Hoose's thoughtful book now joins their ranks. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-Teenager Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a Birmingham bus nine months before Rosa Parks gained fame for the same act of civil disobedience. Colvin, however, did not become famous. Instead, she was ridiculed and despised by both white and black communities, and ended up poor and largely forgotten. Channie Waites interprets, with great empathy, the extensive interviews by which Hoose tells the story, broadening the connection between listeners and Colvin, the difficult decisions she made, and the turbulent times in which she lived. Students can listen to Colvin relate an uncomfortable incident from her childhood at StoryCorps (ow.ly/soJRF) and then discuss the impact this may have had on her future. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

In March 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks triggered the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., by refusing to surrender her seat to a white passenger, a 15-year-old Montgomery girl, Claudette Colvin, let herself be arrested and dragged off the bus for the same reason; in 1956, Colvin was one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, a landmark case in which Montgomery's segregated bus system was declared unconstitutional. Investigating Colvin's actions, asking why Rosa Parks's role has overshadowed Colvin's, Hoose (We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History) introduces readers to a resolute and courageous teenager and explores the politics of the NAACP and bus-boycott leadership. Because Colvin had been tearful in the period following her 1955 conviction, when her classmates shunned her, she was deemed too "emotional" to place at the center of the bus boycott; by the time Parks assumed that position, Colvin was disgraced: pregnant but not married. Hoose's evenhanded account investigates Colvin's motives and influences, and carefully establishes the historical context so that readers can appreciate both Colvin's maturity and bravery and the boycott leadership's pragmatism. Illus. with b&w photos. Ages 10-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Nine months before Rosa Parks' history-making protest on a city bus, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old Montgomery, Alabama, high-school student, was arrested and jailed for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Hoose draws from numerous personal interviews with Colvin in this exceptional title that is part historical account, part memoir. Hoose's lucid explanations of background figures and events alternate with lengthy passages in Colvin's own words, and the mix of voices creates a comprehensive view of the Montgomery bus boycott and the landmark court case, Browder v. Gayle, that grew from it. At the center of the headline-grabbing turmoil is teenager Colvin, who became pregnant during the boycott; and her frank, candid words about both her personal and political experiences will galvanize young readers. On each attractively designed spread, text boxes and archival images, including photos and reproduced documents, extend the gripping story. As in Hoose's We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History (2001), this inspiring title shows the incredible difference that a single young person can make, even as it demonstrates the multitude of interconnected lives that create and sustain a political movement. Thorough chapter notes and suggestions for further reading close this title, which will find an avid readership beyond the classroom.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2009 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

GENIUS OF COMMON SENSE Jane Jacobs and the Story of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." Written and illustrated by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch. 127 pp. David R. Godine. $17.95. (Ages 10 and up) SOMETIMES it takes a stubborn woman to start a revolution. Here are two books about young women who had the courage to change the world during the stiflingly conformist 1950s. On March 2, 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Ala, bus, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested, roughed up and thrown in jail for doing the same thing. Unlike Parks - a seasoned civil rights worker whose protest was carefully planned - Colvin took her stand spontaneously and suffered the consequences alone. In "Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice," Phillip Hoose gives depth and context to the larger-than-life, sometimes mythologized history of the civil rights movement. The adults who brought about the monumental transformations of the civil rights era decided not to make an example of Colvin's case; they feared she wouldn't be the right public face for the Montgomery bus boycott. But it was her rebellious act that got things going. Hoose describes her personal struggle against the culture around her in terms young people of any era can readily understand. Growing up in Jim Crow Montgomery, Colvin questioned everything. She shocked her peers when she stopped straightening her hair and challenged the dominance of the light-skinned, popular girls at school. "We seemed to hate ourselves," she told Hoose in an interview. Her refusal to move on the bus one day after school and her subsequent arrest became a rallying point for the burgeoning civil rights movement; suddenly everyone, knew her name. Publicity about the case spotlighted the meanness of the segregation law and prepared the way for Rosa Parks's famous stand. While her civil disobethence made Colvin a hero to strangers, classmates ridiculed her and called her "crazy." A few months later, she became involved with an older man who seemed sympathetic and found herself pregnant. She was kicked out of school, and her family decided to send her away to Birmingham. Claudette Colvin at age 12, in 1952. Colvin read about Rosa Parks and the bus boycott and decided she had to return to Montgomery to take part in the movement she'd helped ignite. One year after her arrest, while her infant son slept at home, she became a star witness in the landmark federal lawsuit attacking segregation, Browder v. Gayle. The attorney in the case, Fred Gray, had remembered Colvin for her bravery and also her declaration to the police as they dragged her from her seat: "It's my constitutional right!" Gray later said, "I don't mean to take anything away from Mrs. Parks, but Claudette gave all of us the moral courage to do what we did." As Hoose shows, Colvin was important specifically because she acted alone: her lonely stand helped disprove the prosecution's contention that the protests on Montgomery buses were the work of agitators. Yet today Colvin - who, according to an epilogue, lives in New York City - has been virtually forgotten. Hoose's book, based in part on interviews with Colvin and people who knew her - finally gives her the credit she deserves. OBSTREPEROUS: noisily defiant, unruly, boisterous, unmanageable. With this definition from the American Heritage Dictionary, Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch begin their biography of Jane Jacobs. The word fits. Jacobs was, from her earliest years, an independent thinker and a prankster, the type to run up the down escalator at a local department store. Jacobs, who never went to college, became a well-known magazine journalist and architecture critic, and author of the groundbreaking book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." But she also put her words into action. With carefully researched articles and community protests alike, she made a name for herself defending so-called slums, like Manhattan's West Village, against the proponents of urban renewal, who wanted to replace historic areas with high-rise apartment buildings and freeway interchanges. When it came to the Village, Jacobs had personal reasons for taking up the cause. She was born in Scranton, Pa., but moved to New York at 18 and fell in love with the city. She married an architect, and together they began renovating an old house on Hudson Street in the Village and raising children there. When Jacobs wrote of the "sidewalk ballet" of vibrant, street-level urban life, she was speaking of the world outside her front door. So when Robert Moses, the "master builder" of New York City, decided Washington Square Park needed a four-lane highway running through it, Jacobs energetically joined a movement to stop it. At a public meeting about the highway project, Moses stood up and "bellowed, 'There is nobody against this - nobody, nobody, nobody, but a bunch of, a bunch of mothers!' Then he stomped out." His plan failed. JACOBS had developed her ideas about what makes cities work from looking around and keeping her eyes open. As a young woman in Manhattan, she was fascinated by the symbols stamped on the city's ubiquitous manhole covers and had learned to recognize each one for its function. Later, as a writer for magazines like Architectural Forum, she would attend official briefings on the urban renewal projects then viewed as the solution to aging cities. On one occasion, Jacobs toured Philadelphia with Edmund Bacon, a well-known city planner; she later described how the tour began in a poor but lively neighborhood, where people chatted on front stoops and children played in the street. "Bacon proudly showed Jane a new high-rise public housing project one street away," Lang and Wunsch write. "Looking around, she sensed that something was not right. While the people on the messy crowded street seemed to be 'enjoying themselves and each other,' Jane saw that the tidy streets of the new project were empty, 'except for a little boy kicking a tire.' . . . Perhaps the schemes that looked so good to the architects and planners were not really working." It was a revolutionary idea. "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," published to critical acclaim in 1961, had an immediate impact and forever changed the way people looked at the problems of cities. No stodgy history texts, "Claudette Colvin" and "Genius of Common Sense" throb with their heroines' passionate struggles. They are handsome books, loaded with primary sources like photographs and contemporary news accounts that bring alive these stories for any teenager wondering how she can make a difference in the world. As the bumper sticker says: Well-behaved women rarely make history. Ruth Conniff is the political editor of The Progressive magazine.


Kirkus Review

Claudette Colvin's story will be new to most readers. A teenager in the 1950s, Colvin was the first African-American to refuse to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Ala. Although she later participated with four other women in the court case that effectively ended segregated bus service, it is Rosa Parks's action that became the celebrated event of the bus boycott. Hoose's frank examination of Colvin's life includes sizable passages in her own words, allowing readers to learn about the events of the time from a unique and personal perspective. The sequence of events unfolds clearly, with its large cast of characters distinctly delineated. Period photographs and reprints of newspaper articles effectively evoke the tenor of the times. Both Colvin and the author speculate that it was Colvin's unplanned (and unwed) pregnancy that prevented her from being embraced as the face of the Civil Rights movement. Her commitment to combating injustice, however, was unaffected, and she remains an inspiring figure whom contemporary readers will be pleased to discover. (notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Excerpts

Excerpts

CHAPTER ONE Jim Crow and the Detested Number Ten I swear to the Lord I still can't see Why Democracy means Everybody but me. --Langston Hughes Claudette Colvin: I was about four years old the first time I ever saw what happened when you acted up to whites. I was standing in line at the general store when this little white boy cut in front of me. Then some older white kids came in through the door and started laughing. I turned around to see what they were laughing at. They were pointing at me. The little white boy said, "Let me see, let me see, too." For some reason they all wanted to see my hands. I held my hands up, palms out, and he put his hands up against my hands. Touched them. The older kids doubled up laughing. My mother saw us, and she saw that the boy's mother was watching. Then my mom came straight across the room, raised her hand, and gave me a backhand slap across my face. I burst into tears. She said, "Don't you know you're not supposed to touch them?" The white boy's mother nodded at my mom and said, "That's right, Mary." That's how I learned I should never touch another white person again. • • • If, like Claudette Colvin, you grew up black in central Alabama during the 1940s and 1950s, Jim Crow controlled your life from womb to tomb. Black and white babies were born in separate hospitals, lived their adult lives apart from one another, and were buried in separate cemeteries. The races were segregated by a dense, carefully woven web of laws, signs, partitions, arrows, ordinances, unequal opportunities, rules, insults, threats, and customs--often backed up by violence. Together, the whole system of racial segregation was known as "Jim Crow." Jim Crow's job was not only to separate the races but to keep blacks poor. In 1950, nearly three in five black women in Montgomery, Alabama's capital city, worked as maids for white families, and almost three-quarters of employed black men mowed lawns and did other kinds of unskilled labor. The average black worker made about half as much money as the average white. "The only professional jobs . . . open to blacks were . . . pastoring a black church and schoolteaching, which was open because of segregated schools," recalled the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, the minister of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery during the 1950s. Jim Crow kept blacks and whites from learning together, playing or eating meals together, working or riding buses or trains together, wor- shiping with one another, even going up and down in the same elevator or throwing a ball back and forth in the same park. Black and white citizens drank water from separate fountains and used different bathrooms. They were forbidden to play sports on the same team, marry one another, or swim together in the same pool. Some of the segregation laws didn't matter too much in the daily lives of black citizens, but the bus was different. Riding the bus was like having a sore tooth that neverquit aching. Montgomery's neighborhoods were spread out, and the maids and "yard boys"--people like Claudette Colvin's parents who scraped together a few dollars aday by attending to the needs of white families--depended on the buses to reach the homes of their white employers. Thousands of students also rode the buses to school from the time they were little, learning the transfer points and schedules by heart. They gathered in clusters at the corners, chatting and teasing and cramming for tests, until the green and gold buses chugged into view and the doors snapped open. Most blacks had to ride the bus. But everything about riding a bus was humiliating for black passengers. All riders entered through the front door and dropped their dimes in the fare box near the driver. But, unless the entire white section was empty, blacks alone had to get back off the bus and reenter through the rear door. Sometimes the driver pulled away while black passengers were still standing outside. In other Southern cities, like Atlanta and Nashville and Mobile, black passengers sat in the back and whites sat in the front of the bus, with the two groups coming together in the middle as the bus filled up. When all the seats were taken, riders of both races stood. But Montgomery had its own rules and traditions. Here, each bus had thirty-six seats. The first four rows of seats, which held ten passengers, were reserved for white passengers only. Day after day weary black passengers remained standing over empty seats in front. Trying to hold on to their packages and small children, they jostled for balance even as the aisles became jammed with dozens of seatless passengers. Seating behind the first ten seats was up to the driver, who constantly glanced into the mirror above his head to keep track of who was sitting where. If the ten white seats in front were filled, the driver ordered black passengers to surrender their seats in the middle and rear of the bus to newly boarding white passengers. In fact, if even one white passenger wanted to sit in a row occupied by four black riders, the driver would glance up and yell, "I need those seats!" All four blacks were expected to stand up and make their way to the rear. It didn't matter if they were elderly, pregnant, ill, or balancing children on their laps. It also didn't matter that the city bus law--or ordinance, as city laws are called-- had said since 1900 that no rider had to give up a seat unless another was available. Drivers simply ignored the law until it became customary for blacks to move when the driver told them to. When he said to get up, he expected people to get up, and they did. If there were no seats left in the rear, black passengers were simply out of luck. The Montgomery City Lines bus company hired tough men to command their buses. And Montgomery's city ordinance gave them police powers. Every driver understood from the day he was hired that his main job, other than driving the bus, was to enforce the Jim Crow rules. Some drivers carried pistols. Having to stand up at the end of a long day within plain sight of an empty seat was both depressing and infuriating. "The ten empty seats became an obsession to weary workers," wrote Jo Ann Robinson, an English professor at Alabama State College at the time. "The number ten became a damnable number . . . Nobody wanted that number on anything that belonged to him." And being packed together inside a small tube magnified the rudeness of segregation. "There were no Negro drivers," recalled Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Montgomery buses. "It was not uncommon to hear [drivers] referring to Negro passengers as . . . 'black cows' and 'black apes.' " Over the years, a few black riders stood up to the drivers. In 1946 Geneva Johnson was arrested for "talking back" to a driver and not having the correct change. Charged with disorderly conduct, she paid a fine and her case was dismissed. A few years later Viola White and Katie Wingfield were arrested for sitting in seats reserved for whites. They also pleaded guilty and paid fines. In the summer of 1949, sixteen-year-old Edwina Johnson and her brother Marshall, one year younger, had come down from New Jersey to visit relatives in Montgomery. During their stay they climbed aboard a city bus and sat down next to a white man and his son. The white boy ordered Marshall to move. Deeply offended, Marshall refused. The driver twice ordered the Johnsons to the back, but they stayed put. Why should things be different here than back home? The exasperated driver radioed police, who were waiting at the next stop to arrest them. When Edwina and Marshall's relatives were called, they hurried to the police station, paid the teenagers' fines, and got them out of jail. Soon the Johnsons, shaken, were on their way back to New Jersey. It could get rougher. A driver showered insults upon a woman named Epsie Worthy when she refused to pay an extra fare at a transfer point. Ms. Worthy got off the bus rather than pay more, only to have the driver follow her outside and begin punching her. She fought back with her fists, exchanging a flurry of blows with the driver, who spat upon her as he struck her. Police separated the two and charged Ms.Worthy with disorderly conduct. The most shocking incident of all happened in 1952, when a man named Brooks boarded a City Lines bus, dropped a dime in the fare box, and headed down the aisle toward the back. The driver shouted at Brooks to come back, get off, and reboard through the rear door. Brooks said he'd rather walk and asked for his dime back. The driver refused, an argument heated up, and the driver called police. An officer soon boarded the bus, ordering Brooks off. Brooks wouldn't budge until he got his dime back. The policeman shot him, and Brooks later died of his wounds. The coroner ruled his death justifiable homicide, justifiable because the officer said Brooks had been resisting arrest. The few passengers who defied the drivers usually cooled off at the police station, paid their fines, and tried to put their humiliating experiences behind them. Why fight? The white judges, the intimidating police, the insulting drivers, and the crushing weight of all the years of custom and law were simply overwhelming. But change was in the wind. On Monday, May 17, 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public schools. It was a solid punch to Jim Crow, one that produced powerful shockwaves throughout the South. The ruling allowed black students to anticipate a different future and emboldened a few of them to try to make it happen. One such student was fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, whose school had been studying black history almost nonstop for a solid month. Around 3:30 on March 2, 1955, this slim, bespectacled high school junior boarded the Highland Gardens bus with a few of her friends and slid into a window seat on the left side, behind the white section. She piled her textbooks on her lap, smoothed her blue dress, and settled back for a five-block ride that not only would change the course of her life but would spark the most important social movement in U.S. history. Excerpted from Claudette Colvin : twice toward justice by Phillip Hoose. Copyright (c) 2009 by Phillip Hoose. Published in 2009 by Farrar Straus Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher. Excerpted from Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.