Claudette Colvin, who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955, is now fighting to clear her record. According to CNN, attorneys for the civil rights pioneer said they will file a request with a Montgomery County court on Tuesday, aiming to expunge her record.
Colvin, now 82, was 15 years old when she was arrested and charged with two counts of violating the city’s segregation ordinance, as well as one felony count of assaulting a police officer. Although she was convicted on all counts in juvenile court, the segregation convictions were overturned on appeal.
Police said the teenager kicked and scratched an officer as she was being removed from the bus.
“People said I was crazy,” Colvin told CNN. “Because I was 15 years old and defiant and shouting, ‘It’s my constitutional right!'”
In a statement she wrote as part of her motion to get her record expunged, Colvin said she wants society “to move forward and be better.”
“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,” she wrote. “It will inspire them to make the world better.”
Colvin’s attorney, Phillip Ensler, said the case is about more than just a seat on a bus. The attorney added that the team is seeking “long overdue justice.”
Nine months after Colvin refused to give up her seat, Rosa Parks followed in her path. Parks, however, received more attention. Colvin said Parks attracted more publicity because she “was older, married and lighter skinned.”
As she now aims to have her name cleared, the civil rights champion is hoping to serve as an example for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“This is going to be her legacy to them,” Gloria Laster, Colvin’s younger sister, said. “I sat down on the bus so that you can stand up and take your rightful place as an American. And that’s what she wants for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This is what she’s doing this for.”
The Montgomery County district attorney also plans to file a motion to support Colvin’s effort to clear her name.
“I believe that the charges that were (originally) brought, were brought on bogus laws,” District Attorney Daryl B. Bailey said. “It was totally unlawful what the state, and law enforcement, did to this woman at the time.”
According to NPR, Colvin left Alabama at age 20 and lived in New York for decades. Her relatives always worried when she returned for visits to Alabama because court officials never said she had finished probation.
“Her family has lived with this tremendous fear ever since then,” Ensler said. “For all the recognition of recent years and the attempts to tell her story, there wasn’t anything done to clear her record.”
The 82-year-old, now living in Birmingham, Alabama, said her family lived with trauma for many years after the incident.
“My conviction for standing up for my constitutional right terrorized my family and relatives who knew only that they were not to talk about my arrest and conviction because people in town knew me as ‘that girl from the bus,'” she said.