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What was the most interesting fact about Claudette Colvin that you learned in your research?
One of the most interesting facts I discovered in my research is also one the saddest. When Claudette’s sister Delphine, who was just one year younger than Claudette, contracted polio one summer, she passed away on Claudette’s thirteenth birthday. It was that moment that became a turning point in Claudette’s life. The grief of losing her little sister and closest friend made her see the world differently, and so to honor her sister, she began to fight for herself by fighting against injustice.
What is the biggest lesson you hope young readers take away from the book?
Claudette was just 15 years old when she made the brave choice to fight for her civil rights and remain seated on that Montgomery bus instead of giving up her seat to a white woman. Claudette Colvin taught all of us that activism can begin at any age. I hope her story encourages young readers to stand up and speak out on injustices they see in their own communities and in the world. And I hope that they understand that their voices matter, because making a difference can begin at any age. You are never too young to stand up for what is right.
How did you do the research for this biography?
I began my research by reading the great biographical account of Claudette’s life, Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose and I read lots of newspaper and magazine articles about Claudette’s life. But the opportunity to experience Claudette’s moment in history at the Rosa Parks museum in Montgomery, Alabama was incredibly powerful. It was at the Rosa Parks museum that I was able to see a timeline of events, the key figures in the Civil Rights movement and how Claudette’s action was really what set the Montgomery bus boycott in motion. Seeing Claudette's story in the context of other Civil Rights activists like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Jo Ann Robinson, E.D. Nixon and, of course, Rosa Parks, who were all so much older than Claudette, helped me to gain a better sense of the challenges, commitment and courage Claudette possessed. Seeing the visual contrast between this young girl and the adult activists was shocking, but it gave me the starting point I needed to highlight the way she overcame her fears and insecurities to fight for what she believed.
What question would you ask Claudette Colvin if you had the chance to meet her?
Before I asked her anything, I would first thank her for her courage. There are moments in our lives that prepare us for the challenges we may face ahead. I would ask Claudette later in life, when she was scared, or doubted herself, what else did that pivotal moment in 1955 give her the courage to do?
What does the Persisterhood mean to you?
Women, in particular, women of color, have always faced incredible challenges in society. But it is only through their perseverance and determination and yes, persistence, that they have been able to achieve the remarkable accomplishments featured in this series.