Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
National Book Award, Young People's Literature, 2009
On March 2, 1955, a slim, bespectacled teenager refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Mont-gomery, Alabama. Shouting "It's my constitutional right!" as police dragged her off to jail, Claudette Colvin decided she'd had enough of the Jim Crow segregation laws that had angered and puzzled her since she was a young child.
But instead of being celebrated, as Rosa Parks would be when she took the same stand nine months later, Claudette found herself shunned by many of her classmates and dismissed as an unfit role model by the black leaders of Montgomery. Undaunted, she put her life in danger a year later when she dared to challenge segregation yet again - as one of four plaintiffs in the landmark busing case Browder v. Gayle.
Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of a major, yet little-known, civil rights figure whose story provides a fresh perspective on the Montgomery bus protest of 1955 - 56. Historic figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks play important roles, but center stage belongs to the brave, bookish girl whose two acts of courage were to affect the course of American history.
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|Listening Length||3 hours and 38 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 10, 2009|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #47,242 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#17 in Politics, Society & Current Events
#26 in Biographies for Teens
#87 in Teen & Young Adult Cultural Heritage Biographies
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Phillip Hoose's book, "Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice" opens with a brief history of Jim Crow laws and segregation in the South, specifically in Montgomery, Alabama. Most of the information should be familiar to most readers, but there are details that really bring home the reality of Jim Crow - such as the man named Brooks who was shot for refusing to get off the bus unless he got his dime back.
The next chapter is about Claudette's early life, which was nearly as tragic as most of her later life. Her father left his family and eventually her mother shipped her off to live with her great aunt and great uncle. Fortunately, Claudette was loved there and thrived, becoming a good student. However, in another tragic strike, her younger sister died of polio when Claudette was only thirteen years old.
Still reeling from her loss, Claudette becomes passionately interested in civil rights following the arrest and sentencing of one of her classmates, Jeremiah Reeves. The next several chapters chronicle the lead up to Claudette's refusal to relinquish her seat, the violent incident itself, and the fall-out therefrom. Unlike Rosa Parks, Claudette was hauled violently off the bus, thrown into a squad car, handcuffed and locked in a jail cell. She knew enough not to fight back or even resist, but nonetheless her white accusers painted her as a wild unruly teenager which, despite the lack of truth, made her inappropriate as the "face" of the bus protest movement.
Also unlike Rosa Parks, Claudette was not hailed as a hero for her actions. Many, perhaps most, blacks resented her for drawing attention to the situation and making their lives more difficult. Needless to say, she does not receive justice and her actions seem to have no impact on improving civil rights. Her story is an excellent illustration of the difficulty of standing up for what is right and bearing the consequences for no apparent gain when even your own friends and allies turn against you.
In yet another tragic event, Claudette was taken advantage of during this low period by an older man who left her when she became pregnant. As if she wasn't already "unruly" enough, there was no way an unwed pregnant girl could be recognized by the civil rights leadership. But none of that stopped plucky Claudette who agreed immediately to join the lawsuit Browder v. Gayle which was ultimately - more than the year long boycott - what finally ended segregation on buses and other public services.
This book is chock-full of important information which most students (not to mention most adults) are probably unaware. Claudette Colvin is a tragic hero who paid as high or higher price in the fight for civil rights as any, yet who - so far - has received little of the recognition she deserves. Eclipsed by Brown v. the Board of Education, Browder v. Gayle was a landmark Supreme Court case which paved the way for the end of segregation (those dratted "activist judges"!). And finally, while I think that most people are aware that there was opposition and even violence from whites, I don't think that most people - even many younger blacks - fully appreciate how entrenched Southern whites were against losing the "Southern way of life", how hard they were willing to fight and what they were willing to do to prevent desegregation. Even I was breath-taken again at the level of violence and the danger for anyone who spoke out against segregation. This is an important lesson to remember in an era in which many would like to convince us that the election of the first black president means that racism is dead.
Many thanks to Phillip Hoose for researching the life and times of Claudette Colvin so thoroughly and for writing this book in such a clear and accessible manner, especially for letting us hear Claudette in her own words. With plenty of pictures to illustrate the text, this book can be understood by readers as young as seven or eight, and should be read by readers of all ages. The book has won four major awards, including the Newbery. It deserves them all and many more.
I will pass this book down to my future grandchildren because of its pertinent history, not to mention that it should be required reading from grades 6 and above. I learned so much and I'm disappointed to hear that Rosa Parks knowing that she wasn't the FIRST to not give up her seat, stayed silent about Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, who were the FIRST and SECOND to refuse to give up their seats. (Two teenagers were the true pioneers).
MLK and all the Civil Rights leaders should be ashamed of how they hid the REAL truth of who Mrs. Colvin and Smith were and their bravery. The Browder v. Gayle lawsuit case ended the Montgomery boycott, not MLK.
I love that it's a well told -not well known- story of a young black woman (whilst still just a teen!) making a profound difference by standing up for herself, her rights, by refusing to give up a seat.
I love how the book doesn't just tell her story, but how it weaves so much of what was going on at that time and it both gives Claudette's voice to the time and a general overview voice.
I like how the pages have framed extras to better explain or go into detail about several of the topics. A reader can go over them in advance, during or after a section for better understand, as needed.
So far I am very excited to have this book for my children (ages 11 & 13) this year to use in our homeschooling adventures!
I really enjoyed reading Claudette Colvin, I actually feel like I learned something! There was someone BEFORE Rosa Parks! This is the story that needed to be told, so many people know about Rosa Parks, but not every one knows about Claudette, and when I become a school librarian someday in the near future, I want to include this book on my shelves because students need to know not just about Rosa Parks but how there were many more like her before her and after her who stood up for their rights.
I think it's also interesting to note why Claudette's story isn't always told and the book really addresses that issue and some historical books that include Claudette don't explain why her story was often disregarded compared to Rosa Park's story.
This novel helps you learn about Claudette's story, but it also gives some history on Rosa Parks as well and that the two even knew each other!
The reason why this is a great reason to suggest to your son or daughter or to a student is because this book has a lot of facts and a lot of the story comes from the recounting of Claudette herself from interviews. To me that made this book credible and authentic and therefore, worth my time.and yours.
Top reviews from other countries
In a note at the end of the book the author explains how he first came across the name Claudette Colvin and how the book about her eventually was created:
'In the year 2000, while I was writing my book "We Were There, Too! Young People in US History," someone told me that a fifteen-year-old African-American girl had taken the same defiant stand as Rosa Parks, in the same city, but almost a year earlier. As the story went, this girl's refusal to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger had helped inspire the famous Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955 and 1956. But instead of being honoured, she had been shunned by her classmates, dismissed as an unfit role model by adult leaders, and later overlooked by historians.'
Searching the internet, he found her name, Claudette Colvin; he also found out that she was still alive. An article published in 1995 reported that she was now 56 years old and living in New York City where she worked as a nurse at a private nursing home. Hoose talked to the reporter who had written the 1995 article and asked him to call her on his behalf and ask her if she would be willing to work with him on a book about her early life. The reporter called her several times, but she said no every time. Finally, in 2006, she decided she was ready to talk to him.
[Author's note, pp. 117-119.]
This book is based on fourteen interviews with Claudette Colvin, four interviews with her lawyer Fred Gray, and single interviews with several other key characters plus a large selection of books and articles about the civil rights movement in the US. It is an easy read, a quick read, and a good read, because the book is well-written and well-organised. Clearly, the people behind it paid attention to every aspect of the product; not only the text and the illustrations, but also the layout.
The main text is divided into ten chapters which follow a chronological line from Claudette's childhood in the 1940s to the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956 and the violent aftermath in 1957. Here is the table of contents:
PART ONE - FIRST CRY
Chapter 01 - Jim Crow and the detested number ten
Chapter 02 - Coot
Chapter 03 - "We seemed to hate ourselves"
Chapter 04 - "It's my constitutional right!"
Chapter 05 - "There's the girl who got arrested"
Chapter 06 - "Crazy" times
Chapter 07 - "Another Negro woman has been arrested"
Chapter 08 - Second front, second chance
PART TWO - PLAYING FOR KEEPS
Chapter 09 - Browder v. Gayle
Chapter 10 - Rage in Montgomery
Epilogue - History's Door
At the end of the book we have the following items:
** Author's note
** Picture credits
** About the author
In each chapter a paragraph in which Claudette Colvin is speaking in the first person alternates with one or several paragraphs in which Phillip Hoose is writing in the third person. The combination of the primary witness and the author works very well. The result is an account which flows smoothly all the way from chapter one to chapter ten.
Besides the main text, there are nineteen separate sidebars which offer information about specific topics and events. Every statement that is based on a written source is documented with a reference in the notes (pp. 129-138).
Among the many persons mentioned in the book there are two victims who paid with their lives: Emmett Louis Till (1941-1955) and Jeremiah Reeves (1935-1958). The former is mentioned in a sidebar on page 59; the latter is mentioned in the text, pp. 23-26, and in the notes, pp. 131-132.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
This book is about setting the record straight. How the bus boycott began and how it ended. Today Rosa Parks is a household name. We all know her story. How she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person. How her brave action sparked the bus boycott which lasted for 381 days, from 5 December 1955 to 20 December 1956. We also know how it ended. Because of the bus boycott the bus company was losing a lot of money every day. It could not afford to go on like this. In the end it had to give in. So the peaceful, non-violent bus boycott forced the bus company and the city to end segregation on the buses of Montgomery.
This story is not false, but on the other hand it is not true, because it is not the whole story, not the whole truth. Rosa Parks was not the first African-American who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. Others had done the same thing before her, and one of them was Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on 2 March 1955, almost nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing on 1 December 1955.
But Claudette was considered unfit as a role model, because she was a teenager and because she had resisted arrest. Rosa Parks, on the other hand, fit the bill perfectly, because she was an adult and because she allowed the police to arrest her.
The case of Claudette and the cases of others like her caused the leaders of the black community to pay more attention to the problem. From that moment they prepared for a boycott, from that moment they were looking for the right case. When Rosa Parks was arrested on 1 December 1955, they were ready. They had a lawyer who could bail her out and take on her defence. More importantly, a network was ready to publish leaflets and organise a city-wide campaign for a boycott of the buses.
Claudette played an important role in all of this, as this book shows. Her action did not spark the bus boycott, but it fuelled the plan to organise a boycott when the right case came along.
What about the end of the boycott? Five African-American women were involved in a federal lawsuit against the city of Montgomery that challenged segregation on the buses. One of them dropped out because of intimidation from the white community. When the case went to court, there were only four women left. Claudette was one of them. The case is known as Browder v. Gayle. Browder is the name of one of the four women: Aurelia Browder. Gayle is the name of the mayor: W. A. "Tacky" Gayle.
Browder v. Gayle began in a federal district court where three judges presided. They ruled in favour of the plaintiffs (2-1). The city appealed to the Supreme Court of the US, which upheld the ruling of the federal district court.
The ruling was announced on 13 November 1956, but Mayor Gayle decided to ignore it until someone from the Supreme Court showed up and told him to respect it. On 17 December 1956 a motion for clarification and a new hearing was denied. And three days later, on 20 December 1956, Mayor Gayle was handed official written notice by federal marshals. On that day the city and the bus company gave in. They knew they had lost the battle.
Segregation on the buses was abolished. Not because of the long-running boycott, but because of Browder v. Gayle, as the book shows, and one of the four women involved in this suit was Claudette Colvin.
This book sets the record straight, how the bus boycott began and how it ended. This book gives Claudette a voice, a chance to present her version and her side of the story which had been overlooked, ignored, almost forgotten, by the leaders of the civil rights movement and by the historians who wrote about it.
Chapter ten "Rage in Montgomery" mentions another important fact that is often overlooked: the official abolition of the segregation on the buses in December 1956 was not the end of the story. There was a violent response from the white community. Black people were attacked and properties connected with black people were attacked or even bombed.
A picture on page 102 has the following caption: "The Bell Street Baptist Church was reduced to rubble by a bomb thrown three weeks after Montgomery's city buses were integrated."
HONOURS, AWARDS, AND REVIEWS
Some books are very long. This one is not. I am amazed to see how much relevant information and how many important details the author is able to present in just 150 pages. A fine accomplishment indeed.
This book was written for young adults, but you should not let this fact scare you away. It is also suited for adults. It has received honours and awards from several important organisations and publications. On the frontispiece there is a list with sixteen items. I will mention five of them here:
** Winner of the National Book award
** A Newbery Honor Book
** A Washington Post Best Kid's Book of the Year
** A Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of the Year
** A Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book
Phillip Hoose got some good reviews as well. Inside the second version from 2011 there are excerpts from thirteen positive reviews of the first version from 2009. I will mention four of them here:
** The Washington Post: "Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin, a teenager who knew her constitutional rights and was willing to get arrested to prove it... Hoose gives new immediacy to one of the civil rights movement's monumental achievements: the Montgomery bus boycott."
** The New York Times Book Review: "Phillip Hoose gives depth and context to the larger-than-life, sometimes mythologized civil rights movement... Today Claudette Colvin ... has been virtually forgotten. Hoose's book, based in part on interviews with Colvin and people who knew her, finally gives her the credit she deserves."
** Chicago Tribune: "Hoose makes the moments in Montgomery come alive, whether it's about Claudette's neigborhood, her attorneys, her pastor or all the different individuals in the civil rights movement whose paths she crossed... An engrossing read."
** The Christian Science Monitor: "Today, thanks to Hoose, a new generation of girls - and boys - can add Claudette Colvin to their list of heroines."
If you ask me, the honours, the awards, and the positive reviews are fully justified. This is a great book. I have only two minor quibbles:
# 1. On page 126 we have a book that was published by Black Belt Press in 1992: "The Judge: The Life and Opinions of Alabama's Frank M. Johnson, Jr." by Frank Sikora. Apparently, Hoose does not know that a second edition of this book was published by NewSouth Press in 2007. Here is a link: The Judge: The Life and Opinions of Alabama's Frank M. Johnson, Jr.
Frank M. Johnson Jr. (1918-1999) was one of the two judges in the federal district court who ruled in favour of the plaintiffs. He played an important role in the de-segregation of the South. There is a picture of him on page 105 and a separate sidebar about him on page 93.
# 2. On page 128 there is a reference to a website called "Rivers of Change." According to Hoose, it offers information about Browder v. Gayle and about a DVD. But when I tried to visit this website, I did not find anything. It seems it has disappeared since the book was published. While searching the net I found another website which is called "More than a Bus Ride." This site is about the civil rights movement, but it seems to be incomplete. Obviously, we cannot blame Hoose for any of this.
As for the DVD, I think the author refers to the following documentary film: "Rivers of Change: The Legacy of Five Unheralded Women in Montgomery and their Struggle for Justice and Dignity," directed by William Dickerson-Waheed and produced by Cosmo-D Productions in 2007. Unfortunately, this film is not available from Amazon. The director of the film, Dickerson-Waheed, is quoted on page 87.
I only mention these minor quibbles because I felt there should be a few critical remarks somewhere in this review in order to balance the numerous positive observations from me and other sources. Otherwise, this book is highly recommended. For young adults as well as adults who still feel young.
PS # 1. For more information about the civil rights movement, see the following films:
** The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till (2005)
** Scottsboro: An American Tragedy (2005)
** The Rosa Parks Story (2002)
** Betty & Coretta (2013)
PS # 2. For information about Sarah Louise Keys Evans, who refused to give up her seat on an interstate bus in 1952, see Take a Seat - Make a Stand by Amy Nathan (2006).
PS # 3. The following articles are available online:
** Brooks Barnes, "From Footnote to Fame in Civil Rights History," New York Times, 25 November 2009
** Sara Kettler, "Black History Unsung Heroes: Claudette Colvin," BIO, 2 February 2015
** Susan Ozmore, "10 women who refused to give up their seats before Rosa Parks," 6 June 2015
A very easy read for people of any age and will inspire you to read more about the American Civil Rights era.
Claudette Colvin is a heroine whose name should be known more widely for her brave actions.