"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.
About the Author
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.
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. His book Claudette Colvin won a National Book Award and was dubbed a Publisher's 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; The Boys Who Challenged Hitler; and We Were There, Too!, a National Book Award finalist. He has received a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, a Christopher Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and multiple Robert F. Sibert Honor Awards, 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.
Read an Excerpt
Claudette Colvin Twice Toward Justice
By Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2009 Phillip Hoose
All rights reserved.
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, worshiping 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 never quit 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 a day 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 shock waves 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.CHAPTER 2
To me, God loved everyone. Why would He curse just us?
— Claudette Colvin
Claudette: I was born Claudette Austin, September 5, 1939, in Birmingham. My mom named me after Claudette Colbert, a movie star back then, supposedly because we both had high cheekbones. My biological father's name is C. P. Austin, and my birth mother's name is Mary Jane Gadson. C.P. left my mother to look for a job, stayed away for a year, and came back just long enough for my sister Delphine to be born. Then he took off again. When he came back a third time and wanted to stay, my mother finally said no.
When I was just a baby I went off to live with my great-aunt, Mary Ann Colvin, and my great-uncle, Q. P. Colvin, in a little country town called Pine Level, about thirty miles down Highway 231 from Montgomery.
Mary Ann and Q.P. are the ones I call Mom and Dad. They were a lot older than my birth parents, more like my grandparents' age, but I loved them both, and I was happy to be with them. I think the reason they took me is that their only child, Velma, was away teaching school most of the year, so they had plenty of room for me. Later Delphine came to live with us, too. So I grew up in a quartet — Mary Ann, Q.P., Delphine, and me. And our dog, Bell, and two horses and lots of chickens, cows, and pigs. Back then, while World War II was going on, whenever one of our hens would lay a bad egg we'd mark it with an "H" — for Hitler.
People always said I was smart. I don't know about that, but I was inquisitive for sure. I wondered about everything and asked about everything: Why don't the stars fall? Where is Japan? Is it different from China? How did God make the earth so fast, in six days? Did He make the stars, too? When Bell died would she go to heaven? Shouldn't Easter be on a Monday? Weren't there supposed to be three days after the Crucifixion — so it'd be Saturday, Sunday, Monday, right?
The biggest mystery of all was how the white man came to dominate us. In the South, it was taught that white people were better than blacks. Somehow, they were the masters and we were there to work for them. My mom said white people thought God made them special. My Sunday school teacher said we had been cursed by one of Noah's sons. I didn't buy that at all. To me, God loved everyone. Why would He curse just us? My mom thought she was as good as anyone else. So did I. One day I told my pastor, Reverend H. H. Johnson, "I don't want to serve a God that would have a cursed race." He seemed proud of me for saying that.
I was a tomboy, tall and skinny and very fast, and I loved to be outdoors. I could climb trees as well as anyone. My best friend, Annie Ruth Baines, and I knew every trail and shortcut from Pine Level to our homes. A No Trespassing sign meant nothing at all to us. In the summer we would count the insect tracks in the sand across the road and try to figure out what bug made which track. We were walking to school together the first time we ever got close to a skunk, right out in the middle of the road. We ran up to pet it and got sprayed. The teacher took one sniff and sent us home.
Pine Level didn't have much more than a few shacks for the sharecropper families, a schoolhouse, a church, and a general store, but I was at home in all of it. I floated free, and slept at the homes of my mom's friends as much as in my own bed. They all raised me together. Some nights I ended up at Baby Tell's house — she was my mom's best friend, plump and short and always happy to see me. She lived in an old farmhouse, the biggest house in Pine Level. White people used to own it, and we never knew exactly how Baby Tell's family got it. Her attic was full of paintings and an organ and an old spinning wheel. Annie and I used to look out the attic window and pretend the Yankee soldiers were about ready to come charging over the hill.
Other nights I slept at Mama Sweetie's, a tiny woman in her sixties who was the best reader in Pine Level. She had read the entire Bible many times. She had her own blue-covered Webster's dictionary. Mama Sweetie taught practically every child in Pine Level their ABCs and how to write their names and how to count to a hundred, using peanuts. She cooked for all the people when they came in from the fields. Baby Tell and Mama Sweetie were like sisters to my mom, and mothers to me. They loved me to keep them company. My nonstop talking and constant questions seemed to drive my mom crazy, but it didn't bother them at all: they loved that about me.
Our school was a one-room white wooden building with red trim. Annie and I walked there together every day, lunch sacks in one hand, book sacks in the other. It had a potbellied stove in the middle and a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the wall. One teacher taught all six elementary grades, and sat us in sections around the room, grade by grade, two to a desk. The room was rarely full because students kept getting pulled away to do farmwork. A farmer would just appear in the doorway and yell, "I need two boys to help with the cows," and they'd be out the door in a flash.
I loved school. I memorized the Dick and Jane reader so my teacher would think I could already read. One day she asked me to read aloud, but I got way out ahead of the text. She couldn't figure out what was going on. She told my parents to take me to Montgomery to get my eyes checked. I learned the entire second grade in advance just by listening to Annie — she was a year older than me — and by hearing Mama Sweetie read from her Bible and her Webster's dictionary. When it came time for me to start second grade I could already read and write and spell and even do some arithmetic. They tested me and told me to go sit with the third graders. After that, I was always younger than the other kids in my class.
I knew plenty of white people, and they knew me. You had to be very careful around them. They never called the adults "Mr." or "Miss" or "Mrs."; they used their first names instead. Or sometimes they made up little nicknames to dominate us. I was Coot. A doctor gave that name to me when I was little to distract me from the shot he was about to give. He sang, "Oh she's the cutest little thing," but it came out "coot" — and the name stuck.
Excerpted from Claudette Colvin Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Copyright © 2009 Phillip Hoose. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsPART ONE: First Cry,
CHAPTER ONE: Jim Crow and the Detested Number Ten,
CHAPTER TWO: Coot,
CHAPTER THREE: "We Seemed to Hate Ourselves",
CHAPTER FOUR: "It's My Constitutional Right!",
CHAPTER FIVE: "There's the Girl Who Got Arrested",
CHAPTER SIX: "Crazy" Times,
CHAPTER SEVEN: "Another Negro Woman Has Been Arrested",
CHAPTER EIGHT: Second Front, Second Chance,
PART TWO:, Playing for Keeps,
CHAPTER NINE: Browder v. Gayle,
CHAPTER TEN: Rage in Montgomery,
EPILOGUE: History's Door,
Reading Group Guide
Book Discussion Part 1 (HC: pp. 1–75 / TP: pp. 1–71)
1) How did each of the experiences listed below contribute to Claudette's refusal to give up her seat on the bus?
". . . how I learned I should never touch another white person again." (HC and TP: p. 3)
The stories about shopping in downtown Montgomery (HC: pp. 16–18 / TP: pp. 17–18)
Jeremiah Reeves's arrest (HC: pp. 23–25 / TP: pp. 23–26)
Brown v. Board of Education
Miss Nesbit and Miss Lawrence team-teaching Black History Month (HC: pp. 25–27/ TP: pp. 26–29)
2) How and why is Claudette's description of the events leading up to her arrest different from the incident as described in the Montgomery Police Department report?
3) How and why was Claudette's arrest different from the earlier arrests of Geneva Johnson (1946), Viola White and Katie Wingfield (1949), and Edwina and Marshall Johnson (1949)?
4) Why do you think Claudette refused to plead guilty?
5) Reverend H. H. Johnson told Claudette, ". . . I think you just brought the revolution to Montgomery." (HC: p. 35 / TP: p. 37) Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
6) Why do you think Claudette's classmates and neighbors did not treat her as a hero after she was arrested?
7) How was Rosa Parks's arrest both similar to and different from Claudette Colvin's?
8) Claudette Colvin said, "When I heard on the news that it was Rosa Parks, I had several feelings: I was glad an adult had finally stood up to the system, but I felt left out. I was thinking, Hey, I did that months ago and everybody dropped me." (HC: p.61 / TP: p. 67) She goes on to share some ideas about why she thinks the black leaders chose to use Rosa Parks's case as inspiration for the bus boycott rather than her own. What do you think?
Book Discussion Part 2 (HC: pp. 76–10 / TP: pp. 72–101)
1) Claudette Colvin said, "There was a time when I thought I would be the centerpiece of the bus case. I was eager to keep going in court. I had wanted them to keep appealing my case. I had enough self confidence to keep going." (HC: p.63 / TP: p. 67). Only a few months later, the NAACP asked Claudette to participate in another court case. Why do you think they wanted Claudette for the second court case?
2) How were Claudette's two court cases different?
3) Why was courage the number one requirement for plaintiffs?
4) While Claudette practiced for her second day in court, her mother gave her this advice: "If you can even talk to a white person without lowering your eyes you're really doing something." Why did she give Claudette this particular advice? Do you think it was helpful? Why or why not?
5) One of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle said, "If there was a star witness in the boycott case . . . it had to be Claudette Colvin." (HC: p. 88 / TP: pp. 99–100) Reread the description of the testimony, especially Claudette's testimony (pp. 82–88 / TP: pp. 83–85). Why do you think the lawyer called Claudette Colvin the star witness? Do you agree? Why or why not?
6) Why do we call the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Browder v. Gayle successful when the following things occurred?
"Browder v. Gayle may have ended legal segregation on the buses, but it did not end racial prejudice." (HC: p. 97 / TP: p. 109)
"Violence and threats of revenge were everywhere in the first days of integrated buses." (HC: p. 98 / TP: p. 110)
"It was clear that anyone connected to the boycott, anyone whose name or picture had been the paperwas now in grave danger." (HC: p. 98 / TP: p. 110)
7) After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Browder v. Gayle and the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. thanked Claudette Colvin for serving as a plaintiff in the court case. He then said to her, "You're a brave young lady." Claudette said, "Meeting Dr. King didn't pay my bills or stop people from gossiping about me and Raymond. It sure didn't make me any safer. But I have to say those few words of praise from him on that evening felt very good." (HC: p. 99 / TP: p. 111) Considering how much Claudette had been through and how she felt abandoned by the black leadership in Montgomery and by her community, why would she say that those few kind words, spoken privately to her, after it was all over, "felt very good" and were worth remembering decades later?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Everyone who is reading this please keep reading. I read this book and it was amazing!!! Claudette is trying to tell yoi guys to treat everyone equal and not how they look or there skin tone.i loved this book and i hope everyone will read it amd learn not to treat others differently. Those people are like you. Remember that next time you judge someone. Also, when you say somethimg if it is hurtful and it will hurt others think about what your about to say before you say it. Im 11 and i am saying all of this. I hope you enjoy it
When 15-year-old black high schooler Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in March of 1955, it helped to spark the civil rights movement that would give us such celebrated national heroes as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. But what happened to passionate, opinionated Claudette, whose actions were condemned even by her own community as headstrong and foolish? In three words: I loved it! Truly excellent young adult nonfiction is hard to find, much less nonfiction about subjects I actually want to read about. Twice Towards Justice scores on both those counts. While I was reading this book, the thing that struck me the most was how on earth Claudette's incredible story could have flown under the radar for so long. In an era of political correctness, it seems like we're stuck inside a perpetual time warp of Rosa Parks-instead of studying heroes and heroines that are easier for teens to relate to, specifically, other teens. Hoose's voice is unflinchingly, refreshingly honest-giving us some frank yet sympathetic perspective on Claudette's story. My personal favorite chapter was "We Seem to Hate Ourselves", detailing Claudette's experiences at an all-black high school where girls spent hours straightening their hair and attempting to lighten their skin to look more "white". When Claudette left her hair in its thick, unruly curls, she was teased by her peers and even other, adult members of her community. Interestingly, the reason I could relate to this was because I watch my (white) peers spending hours attempting to look more "ghetto", while also watching my (black and Hispanic) peers agonizing over their curves. Apparently, some things never change. And that's what seems to be the underlying message in this book-that you don't need to be a hero to make a difference, that standing up for your rights as a human being is a fight that never ends-whether it's your right for better transportation and education, or your right to dress the way you'd like without ridicule.
Most people have heard about Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, but few know the story of the first African American to refuse to give up her bus seat. This book is historical and inspirational. The pictures are thought provoking, and the story will show young people that they too can cause change.
I couldn't put this book down. The way Hoose switched from Claudette's to another narrator's voice kept me wanting to read on for more information. Text boxes with side stories added to the "Big Picture."
Although juvenile in feel, this book has meat to it. You are taken back to the early 50s with sidebars and photos to give you a feel for the era if you are too young to remember. I like the quotes from interviews with Colvin in which she is very honest to tell you about her life. She doesn't sugar coat her teen pregnancy and her anger at the treatment of her family and friends in Montgomery. It is very interesting the conscious decision by black leaders to make Rosa Parks the face of the movement and to push aside a teenager to was very willing to fight this injustice. If you thought you knew all about the bus boycott you need to read this book. Contains endnotes and bibliography.
This book tells a little known piece of history about a teenaged girl whose courage sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and helped strike down racial segregation in the Jim Crow South. Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white woman and was arrested as a result. Although African-American leaders in the South chose to wait before boycotting the bus system (for about a year until Rosa Parks also refused to give up her bus seat) because Claudette was not considered a good enough spokesperson for their cause, Claudette nevertheless started people talking about a bus boycott. Later, Claudette was one of four plaintiffs whose case established that racial segregation on Alabama¿s public buses was unconstitutional. While Claudette¿s role in history is undeniably important, her place in history has mostly been overlooked. Hoose sets to right this in this book, which not only pieces together the history of the racial segregation in Montgomery with Claudette¿s biography but also includes Claudette¿s own words (resulting from extensive interviews the author had with her). The result is a well-researched historical narrative complemented with personal reactions to the events described. The book also includes informative illustrations, such as photographs and newspaper clippings. In addition, the author includes various sidebars about other events describing racial tensions in Montgomery, although not directly connected with Claudette¿s experiences with the bus system. This is an interesting book for older children, teenagers, and even adults, which children and teens might enjoy all the more for having a protagonist near their own age.
Excellent book. Excellent. It made me angry that Claudette Colvin was deemed "unfit" to lead the bus boycott, and that Rosa Parks is the one we always remember. The Civil Rights movement had many heroes, and only a few are remembered today--usually the least controversial ones (See also: Negroes With Guns by Robert F. Williams). Claudette Colvin got pregnant a few months after her arrest for refusing to give up her seat for a white person. As she describes it, she was taken advantage of by an older man, at a time when she had few friends. But her pregnancy meant that in the eyes of the Civil Rights leaders of Montgomery, she was no longer an appropriate figurehead for the movement. She was a "fallen woman." In a time when racism was being challenged, sexism stood in the way. In Colvin's own words: "I hoped maybe some of the boycott leaders would understand my situation and help me, after what I had done. Deep inside I hoped maybe they would give me a baby shower. I needed money and support so badly. But I didn't hear from any of them after I left the courthouse. Not Fred Gray. Not Rosa Parks. Not Jo Ann Robinson. No one called after I testified, I knew they couldn't put me up onstage like the queen of the boycott, but after what I had done, why did they have to turn their backs on me?"I grew angrier and angrier while reading this book. Rosa Parks was already an advocate for civil rights when she refused to give up her seat. She was secretary of the NAACP. Claudette Colvin, on the other hand, was a teenager in high school. She had a lot to lose. Her decision not to give up her seat was based entirely on her own desire for justice. Rosa Parks did a great thing, but she never should have let the world forget that there was someone who came before her, who took the first step. We never should have let ourselves forget.
I am not a big reader of nonfiction, but I loved this book. Aimed at young teens, but terrific for adults as well. Stories from the civil rights movement are poignant enough, but add in the disregard with which Claudette was treated and it a very difficult story to deal with. The difficulty is worth it to enjoy the final chapter when she returns to her high school to speak and to see the success of this book. National Book Award winner
This seems to be my year for reading a lot of nonfiction about the Civil Rights Movement and the Montgomery Bus Boycott specifically. I would suspect that there are many people who do not know about Claudette's role as the first Negro ever to refuse to give up her seat on the bus. But because she was young, the boycott movement ignored her and only used her in a lawsuit to protest the segregation of buses. It's sort of a sad story, but on the other hand this book highlights not only Colvin's strength, but the strength of many everyday people who were willing to stand up for their principles. This book is well-written, including interviews with Colvin that are interspersed with the rest of the text. At more than 100 pages, this would be great for a middle school student biography project, and I think teenagers would be inspired by her courage and willingness to stand up. The teenage pregnancy will also be something that teens can relate to. Very well-written and easy to read and learn from.
Though text-heavy and most resourceful for older students, this book by Philip Hoose can be beneficial to any student interested in or being introduced to the civil rights movement in America. Hoose has made a lot of information easily accessible and his writing his easy to read and engaging. I recommend this book for older students (ages 13 and up) because it is fairly wordy and best read in a couple sittings, because the subject matter is intense. I would also recommend this is a group read because of how powerful the subject matter is.
This book is a wonderful education in the first African-American girl to disobey the Jim Crow laws and file a lawsuit. Claudette Colvin and the author take turns giving descriptions of the horrible injustices of the South and how Claudette stood up to them by staying seated on the Birmingham bus until the police wrenched her off. Then came the long arduous path of her own lawsuit's defense and also being a member in a class action lawsuit that overturned the Birmingham Bus segregation rules.Grades 4-8. Medium appeal. Independent read or group read. Positives - great historical accounts of conditions, culture, and valuesNegatives - violence, mature content
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is an illuminating piece of nonfiction. Phillip Hoose tells the story without condescending, but he also doesn't assume the reader knows anything about his story. As an adult reader, I appreciated the deep background provided in sidebars.From the first pages, which are largely pictures illuminating life in the South in the era of Jim Crow laws, I was wowed. The book reads almost like a documentary; Hoose uses photos, text boxes, background, newspaper text and interviews to paint a vivid picture not only of Colvin's life, but these years in Montgomery, Alabama.Who is Claudette Colvin? She was a high school girl who refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. She did it nine months before Rosa Parks, and she was arrested. Part of what I love about this book is the honesty, which is at times brutal. Rosa Parks is an American hero, and so many of us growing up being wowed by her bravery. This book takes us back to the way it really happened, which isn't as simple. It's not a nice little story, but it's real. As a librarian firmly in the "teach the truth" camp, I loved this book. Some teachers and parents may react adversely to it. She cooperated with Phillip Hoose, who interviewed her numerous times for this book.Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is an important book. It's a book I found illuminating as an adult reader. It won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
5PAge range: 11 and upRadical Change: Yes! The book has short chapters and lots of sidebars and pictures.Selected Passage: "Making those pigtails was the strongest statement I could make in that school. If I had cut all my hair off, they probably would have locked me in an institution. Miss Nesbitt was right: My hair was 'good hair,' no matter what. By wearing it natural I was saying, 'I think I'm as pretty as you are.' All of a sudden it seemed such a waste of time to heat up a comb and straighten your hair before you went to school." ..."When I went to school the next Monday, people were cold shocked. Teachers asked me, 'Why would you do such a thing?' They wouldn't let me be in the school play because of how I wore my hair. Classmates said I was still grieving Delphine." (p. 50)
Claudette Colvin is a forgotten figure in the civil rights war, so it seems proper that her story be told. I was enjoying her story in a mild way until I got to the part where she was pregnant and everyone started to ignore her. Then this story of a teen who stood up for her right, not just in the face of an oppressive other, but in the face of her peers and her own people really grabbed hold of me. I was all teary at the modest ending.
In this 2009 National Book Award Winner, the author moves back and forth between the personal life story of Colvin and the historical happenings of the time, especially in regards to the bus boycotts¿a very unique and engaging form of non-fiction. Contains many historic photos, documents, artifacts, and text boxes to enhance the information, plus many details are provided by Colvin herself. (Jane Addams Honor Book)
Personal Response:I thought this was a very interesting book. It is not an easy read, however. It took me quite a few sessions to complete reading this book, and I'm good adult reader. I'm not sure how many students would be able to stick with this book.Classroom/Library Uses:This would be a great book for a teacher or librarian to recommend to an excellent reader. This would work well for a unit on biographies or as a supplement for studies on civil rights.
I didn't start out to read the entire book, but I couldn't put it down. Interviews with Claudette Colvin combined with news accounts of the conditions in Montgomery, Alabama during the mid 1950's make this fascinating reading. Ms. Colvin was among the first Black's to have the courage not to move fromher seat when requested to by a white person. Her life intertwines with Rosa Parks and we learn more about her famous refusal as well.
A riveting story of segregation of blacks in United States in the mid-1950s. Like me, young adults will be captured by the courage of Claudette and the southern black leaders who fought for rights and freedoms that were guaranteed in the United States Constitution. Phillip Hoose has written about this piece of history in an easy-to-read, informative manner. The photos and informational side-bars help the reader relate to Claudette and the blacks in their quest for equality. This book is a good introduction to the freedom movement in United States.
I was so interested in this story of a teen girl who had refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and proved to be the predecessor to Rosa Parks and the whole bus boycott. Largely forgotten in the retelling of Civil Rights history, Hoose incorporates Claudette Colvin's story with the larger civil rights movement. Fascinating stuff and really engaging nonfiction!
This book is a story of Claudette Colvin's life. It was set in a time period where blacks were not treated equally. It is about a young girl who stands up for what she believes is right. She is taken to jail for not moving her seat for a white person. She did not feel like what she did was wrong because there were laws set that a person did not have to move seats if there were none left. She became a criminal simply for standing up for what she thought was right. This book could be taught in a history classroom. It could teach kids about how times were from the perspective of a young girl. They can learn about laws and court cases of that time. They can also see how the law is not always fair. The book also had pictures in it where they can get a visual of what things were like. I liked this book a lot. I learned more about times back then and how unfair it was. The pictures helped me a lot by showing me a more accurate representation of what Claudette went through during this time. I like how it was not just told from her point of view but from the point of view of someone else as well.
I had never heard of Claudette Colvin and, until the publication of this book, probably a lot of other people hadn't either. Her role in the Civil Rights Movement has been relatively neglected, and I'm so glad that now we can learn about the antecedent role this remarkable fifteen-year-old girl played which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the eventual integration of Montgomery's buses. Highly Recommended!
Claudette Colvin was a young black girl living in Montgomery, Alabama, during the time of racial segregation. This book tells her story when she bravely refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white woman. Getting arrested and going on trial, she courageously faced Jim Crow. Being one of the most important people in the civil rights trial, Claudette helped rid of racial segregation. This book is very well written and shines light on a teenage girl who I have never heard of before. Bravo!
Claudette Colvin's story is finally told to the readers in this biographical novel. With excellent commentary and descriptive pictures, this book is sure to leave an impression. It is a great book for teaching the civil rights movement.
Phillip Hoose tells the little known tale of Claudette Colvin. This is not a story discussed in middle school, high school, or even at universities. Even though Claudette's story does not work out like Rosa Parks's ever did, students can learn a lot about bravery and activism from this story. Even a young person can spark revolution.
Experiencing Jim Crow laws as she grew up, Claudette decided to take a stand. Being fifteen to Claudette did not mean she was young, it meant that she could make a difference. One day while riding a bus, Claudette decided that she would not obey the bus driver and give up her seat. By taking a stand, talk of boycotting buses in Montgomery starts. However, Claudette has to fight to keep her name clear and try to prove that she will be a good example to begin the boycott. This will be an excellent book to compare to the normal history books in class. The students can verify dates with their history book and look up why any dates may differ. Likewise, the students can look up the events in their book and see where the history book left out details. This would also be a good book to read along with the civil rights movement. Reading a biography that includes important history milestones will be more interesting to students than reading their history book. The book was an easy read and interesting. I liked the set up of the text. There was accurate historical events and I was able to read what Claudette was feeling at the time the even occurred. Likewise, I found out about information that i did not know. This book was informative and interesting.