1199 Civil Rights Activist Clears her Name

March 1, 2022


Claudette Colvin, a now retired 1199SEIU member, who courageously defied the segregated bus laws in Alabama during the Jim Crow era, has finally been cleared of wrongdoing some 65 years later.

In 1955, aged just 15, Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white person in Montgomery.

Her act of civil disobedience came nine months before that of Rosa Parks, which sparked the bus boycott campaign, and later brought the young Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. At the time, however, civil rights leaders perceived a poor 15-year-old to be an unsuitable person to build a movement around.

Colvin eventually settled in New York and began working as a Nurse Aide at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home in 1968. She retired in 2004, after a 36-year career there and later returned to Alabama.

It has taken many decades for her name to be officially cleared.

But an Alabama family court judge finally granted Colvin’s petition to expunge her record in November 2021. Montgomery County Juvenile Judge Calvin Williams signed the order to seal, destroy and expunge her 65-year-old record for good cause and fairness for "what has since been recognized as a courageous act on her behalf and on behalf of a community of affected people.”

In a 2015 interview, Colvin said to the 1199 Magazine in words that still resonate today: “What I tell young people is that you should always stand up for what you think is right regardless of the consequences. You never know if your actions might light a spark.”

1199 Magazine: January - February 2022