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Claudette Colvin: US civil rights pioneer wants record cleared


US civil rights activist Claudette Colvin, who in 1955 at the age of 15 refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person, is seeking to have her criminal record expunged.

Ms Colvin, now 82, was sentenced to probation after being convicted of assaulting a police officer while being arrested in Montgomery, Alabama.

She is contesting in court the fact that her probation was never officially terminated.

Her case occurred nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous protest.

“I am now an old woman,” Ms Colvin stated under oath. “It will mean something to my grandchildren and great grandchildren if my records are expunged. It will also have an impact on other black children.”

“I guess you can say that now I am no longer a juvenile delinquent,” she told a crowd of relatives and activists in Montgomery.

Ms Colvin told the BBC in 2018 that she was “not afraid, but disappointed and angry” because she knew she was “sitting in the right seat.”

She was the first person arrested for opposing Montgomery’s bus segregation policies, but her storey is little known. Rosa Parks became one of the most prominent figures in the civil rights movement after her case resulted in a bus boycott.

Ms Colvin said she was inspired by anti-slavery activists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. In 1956, she would testify in the landmark case that effectively ended bus segregation.

Her lawyer claimed that the probation had cast a pall over her life. Ms Colvin left Alabama at the age of 20 and lived in New York for decades, but her family was always concerned about what might happen when she returned for visits, according to the Associated Press.

Ms Colvin’s request was supported by Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey.

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