Optics Mattered in the Civil Rights Movement, too.

While Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus is one of the most quoted Black history facts, Mrs. Parks was not the first to accomplish such a feat.

Claudette Colvin, at 15, refused to move to the back of the bus nine months before Rosa Parks’ infamous ride. When confronted by the bus driver, Claudette stated: “it felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.”

But why is Claudette not more widely known?  Ask civil rights strategists of the time and they’ll tell you that Parks was a more strategic choice.  Claudette was a single, pregnant mother and was much younger than Parks. Also, at the time, Parks served as secretary  to the NAACP. Both the NAACP and other Black organizations felt an “adult with the right look” would attract much-needed support for their efforts.