Last year, I started a series I didn’t get to finish. Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History was something I thought of doing because I realized how much black history is repetition and how much is rarely mentioned. CLICK HERE to view the first post.
I said I wanted to post every Thursday on this topic. Somehow I got side tracked. But I’m back on it.
Every year in February we are certain to hear one name: Rosa Parks. But, was she the first? Below are women who were lost to history, though they were before Parks:
Born on September 5, 1939, in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger months before Rosa Parks on March 2, 1955. Colvin was only 15years old but she was poor. She didnt have the NAACP or the connections Parks had. As a result, little is know of her. In fact, the NAACP considered using Claudette but they said she was too young. They also looked away because she was pregnant and they did not want to represent a young, unwed mother and bring about negative attention. In short, they looked down on Colvin. Still, Colvin went on to serve as a plaintiff in the landmark legal case Browder v. Gayle, which helped end the practice of segregation on Montgomery public buses. Today, Claudette Colvin is still not a name you hear very often in relation to bus desegregation, even though she was there before Parks.
After Colvin Aurelia Browder followed suit and was arrested on April 19, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat. Born on January 29, 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama, we can rest assured Aurelia knew well the likes ofJim Crow. We can imagine this is why she joined the NAACP, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the Women’s Political Council (WPC), and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). However, Aurelia could join all the organizations she wanted but with six children and no husband her refusal to give up her seat did not stick, even though she was before Parks.
Aurelia was followed by Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Jeanatta Reese, all who were arrested for refusing to give their seats up on a bus in 1955.
I mentioned her in my first post but I’m doing it again for emphasis since she came eleven years before the women above. Many are just now starting to hear more and more about Morgan. Eleven years before both Parks and Colvin was Irene Morgan, later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, another black woman arrested in Middlesex County, Virginia, in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on an interstate. The Irene Morgan Decision inspired the men and women of CORE to create a nationwide protest movement called The Journey of Reconciliation which later inspired The Freedom Rides.