Jeremy Felix, a seventh-grade student at Glen Meadow Middle School in Vernon Township, NJ won the Scholastic Scope national essay contest for his essay on Claudette Colvin.
Kristen Lewis, executive editor of Scope magazine wrote to Jeremy, “We loved how you captured the dauntlessness and courage of Claudette Colvin…Wonderful work!”
Thank you to Language Arts teacher Nancy Grimaldi for connecting us with Jeremy so that we could share his essay here.
Thank you to Jeremy Felix for such a powerful piece of writing.
Claudette’s Fight for Rights
An essay by Jeremy Felix
“It’s not about being fearless. It’s about acting in spite of fear,” Veronica Roth once said. This indicates how Claudette Colvin was dauntless in a very frightening situation. She was obviously dauntless in countless ways because she changed the United States by fighting for her rights as a Black American 15-year old teenager. On her incredible journey to overcome the obstacles of racism, she had to make many difficult decisions.
During the 1950s and 1960s there were shameful laws labeled as Jim Crow. The purpose of these laws was to separate whites and blacks. Black Americans had to attend separate schools, restaurants, restrooms, and drinking fountains. While Claudette was riding a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a white woman stepped on and walked to where Claudette was sitting. She wanted the seat but Claudette would not stand up. In the story “This is what Courage Looks Like” by Mack Lewis, Claudette stares straight ahead and refuses to move. She even stands up to the bus driver when he demands for her to get up.
At the next stop, the bus driver calls in the police. The police begin to harass her and tears start to fill her eyes. Claudette bravely states, “It’s my constitutional right to sit here!” (20). The policeman tugs Claudette from her seat and her schoolbooks collapse to the bus floor. The police officers took her to an adult jail even though she was just 15.
While waiting, scared, in her jail cell, Claudette’s church pastor bailed her out of jail and she was free to go. Once again, Claudette had to make a difficult decision. A lawyer named Fred Gray asked her if she wanted to be in the small group to go to court. To win the case, he needed a small group of courageous citizens to testify. She most likely would get phone calls from other people sending death threats to her family. Despite all of the risks, she still said yes because she wanted freedom from the Jim Crow laws.
In the end, through all the fighting and chaos in Montgomery, Claudette Colvin endlessly fought for her and every other Black American’s constitutional rights. If it were not for Claudette Colvin, the constitution would not have been brought to Montgomery. Claudette succeeded. Just as she said she would.