Excellent book. Excellent. It made me angry that Claudette Colvin was deemed "unfit" to lead the bus boycott, and that Rosa Parks is the one we always...moreExcellent book. Excellent. It made me angry that Claudette Colvin was deemed "unfit" to lead the bus boycott, and that Rosa Parks is the one we always remember. The Civil Rights movement had many heroes, and only a few are remembered today--usually the least controversial ones (See also: Negroes With Guns by Robert F. Williams).
Claudette Colvin got pregnant a few months after her arrest for refusing to give up her seat for a white person. As she describes it, she was taken advantage of by an older man, at a time when she had few friends. But her pregnancy meant that in the eyes of the Civil Rights leaders of Montgomery, she was no longer an appropriate figurehead for the movement. She was a "fallen woman." In a time when racism was being challenged, sexism stood in the way. In Colvin's own words:
I hoped maybe some of the boycott leaders would understand my situation and help me, after what I had done. Deep inside I hoped maybe they would give me a baby shower. I needed money and support so badly. But I didn't hear from any of them after I left the courthouse. Not Fred Gray. Not Rosa Parks. Not Jo Ann Robinson. No one called after I testified, I knew they couldn't put me up onstage like the queen of the boycott, but after what I had done, why did they have to turn their backs on me?
I grew angrier and angrier while reading this book. Rosa Parks was already an advocate for civil rights when she refused to give up her seat. She was secretary of the NAACP. Claudette Colvin, on the other hand, was a teenager in high school. She had a lot to lose. Her decision not to give up her seat was based entirely on her own desire for justice. Rosa Parks did a great thing, but she never should have let the world forget that there was someone who came before her, who took the first step. We never should have let ourselves forget.(less)
This is a difficult book to read. Not the language, or the way it's written (although the endnotes are annoying; I recommend using two bookmarks), but...moreThis is a difficult book to read. Not the language, or the way it's written (although the endnotes are annoying; I recommend using two bookmarks), but the subject matter. Loewen lays out, in methodical detail, all of the ways white Americans have utterly screwed over black Americans with residential segregation. If you had any illusions about America being "post-racial," they will be shattered by this book.
This is absolutely essential reading for every white American. I wish they taught this book in schools.(less)