The pioneer woman of the bus boycotts

Malia Benson | Contributing Writer

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As UNC Wilmington welcomes Black History Month, students are given the opportunity to reflect on the work of the black men and women who progressed the civil rights movement, and this week The Seahawk looks at the woman who pioneered the bus boycotts: Claudette Colvin.

This institution is meant for learning about subjects such as history, however, after asking various students, many have failed to know whom Claudette Colvin is.

As a young African American woman, Claudette Colvin was the first to refuse giving her seat to a white man, according to the Montgomery Bus Boycott website.

Many associate the Montgomery Bus Boycotts with Rosa Parks, the iconic face of the civil rights movement.

She is well known for her alleged ignition of the revolutionary movement, as it was her arrest that caused the most controversy. And although students knew who Parks was, when asked about whom Colvin was, students responded with uneasiness, admitting they did not recognize the name.

After being briefed on the monumental history of Claudette Colvin, students began to grasp the work and influence of this woman.

Her legacy, while tremendous in the bigger picture, has received significantly low recognition.

In remarks to this, students feel as though she deserves to be acknowledged much like her arguable equal, Rosa Parks.

“Claudette should get just as much recognition as her [Parks],” said sophomore Christian Fulton, who was rather shocked by the amount of information he missed throughout the years.

In agreement, UNCW student Michael Edwards said he believes it’s important to “give credit where it’s due.”

Colvin has been marked as a pioneer figure in the civil rights movement, even though she is rarely ever brought up in the school’s curriculum for historic activists.

As a 15-year-old girl, she appeared to not have made as much fuss as the 42-year-old Rosa Parks. She has, however, gained much more acknowledgement over the years due to movements like Twitter hashtags.

A user on Twitter last year created a hash tag labeled, #TheBlackHistoryYouDidntLearnInSchool, showing the black faces of success that were often disregarded in history.

Colvin was one of the women mentioned in the tags, giving her a wider platform for recognition.

With only the reliance of social media and self-research, many feel there should be much more inclusiveness of black figures in American history. Furthermore, some students feel as though America seems to disregard an abundance of information and facts when they are being taught this side of history while in school.

“They minimized all the great things people of color, especially women, did for our society,” said Tito Barbosa, a junior who has found himself unsatisfied with the amount of black history in the education system. 

Many inventors and forerunners like Colvin go unnoticed, while only a select few are held to be the faces of the civil rights movement.

“We never hear about other black figures who have contributed to society,” said Fulton, “unless it’s Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks.”

Looking towards the future, students on campus are hopeful to learn of more historical black icons.

“We built this country too,” said Edwards, in reference to the many black men and women who helped make America what it is today.