Author: Phillip Hoose
Description: Appropriate for 8th graders and older. This is a beautiful book about the struggles of Claudette Colvin- not only in segregationist Montgomery, Alabama where her refusal to give her bus seat up to a white woman sparked the bigger bus boycott movement, but also in her own community where she was shunned (by many of the boycott leaders as well) for being unmarried and pregnant, shunned for giving birth to a fair skinned baby (although the father was black). Despite all of this, she still agreed to testify in the Browder vs. Gayle case that went all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ending segregated seating on the buses.
Colvin disappeared from the public eye for many years (it was hard for her to get a job when the restaurant owners in Montgomery found out who she was) and was largely forgotten except for the work of a few reporters to keep her in the public eye. Eventually her story has resurfaced in history books and lessons; Rosa Parks was not the first person to refuse to give up her seat.
Phillip Hoose, the author of this National Book Award Winner, alternates Claudette’s narrative with a narrative about facts – revealing the systematic way they boycotted the buses, buying dozens of station wagons and picking up riders at various points. He also includes sidebars with more facts about cases related to or people involved in this experience, pictures, newspaper clippings and handwritten notes.
I found this book to be inspiring and think it needs to be widely read by young people. Segregation is still an issue – it’s not as transparent as “whites” and “colored” signs, but it exists and somehow we need to continue to hope that things will change, advocate for change, and act towards change.
Read Erin Ramai’s review for a more thorough critique of this book.
Supplemental primary sources include –
1) Montgomery City “Bus” Code
Code of the City of Montgomery, Alabama. Charlottesville: Michie City Publishing Co., 1952. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
2) List of “Negroes’ Most Urgent Needs”
“Negroes’ Most Urgent Needs,” Inez Jessie Baskin Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
3) Bill of Rights, Amendments I & XIV
Image of Bill of Rights (can download high resolution image) – http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/char…
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