By JAY REEVES, Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) – A judge has approved a request to erase the criminal record of a black woman who was arrested for refusing to ride in the back of a separate Alabama bus in 1955, months before Rosa Parks rose to international fame for doing the same.
A judge granted the request of Claudette Colvin, now 82, in a brief court order released Thursday by a family representative.
Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress and NAACP activist, gained worldwide recognition after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man on December 1, 1955. Her treatment led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott , which propelled the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is in national limelight and is often considered the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.
A 15-year-old high school student at the time, Colvin refused to change seats on a separate Montgomery bus even before Parks.
A bus driver called the police on March 2, 1955, complaining that two black girls were sitting near two white girls in violation of segregation laws. One of the black girls moved back when asked, according to a police report, but Colvin refused and was arrested.
The case went to juvenile court because of Colvin’s age, and records show a judge found her delinquent and placed her on probation “as a ward of the state in waiting for good behavior “. Colvin was never officially informed that she had completed her probation in the decades that followed, and relatives said they believed police would arrest her for any reason.
When she asked a court in October to strike her record, Colvin said she no longer wanted to be considered a “juvenile offender.”
âI am an old woman now. Deleting my records will mean something to my grandchildren and great grandchildren. And that will mean something to other black kids, âColvin said at the time in an affidavit.
Now that juvenile court judge Calvin L. Williams has approved the request, Colvin said in a statement that she “wants us to move forward and be better.”
âWhen I think about the reasons why I seek to have my name cleared by the state, it is because I think if that happened it would show the generation that is growing up now that progress is possible and that things are improving. It will inspire them to make the world a better place, âshe said.
Colvin has never had any other arrests or legal scrapes, and she became a named plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit that banned racial segregation on Montgomery buses.
Reeves is a member of the AP Race and Ethnicity team.
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