Sunday, October 18, 2009

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Most American school children know the story of Rosa Parks.  But few know that before Rosa Parks started her protest, there was a brave young teen who challenged the segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama.  Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice was just nominated for the National Book Award, and it's a book well worth seeking out.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
by Phillip Hoose.
NY: Melanie Kroupa Books, 2009.
ages 10 and up
On March 2, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus.  Claudette was an impassioned teenager who had just learned about her constitutional rights in her history class.  Her friends knew how angry she was at segregation and how unfairly the police treated her, but Claudette quickly found herself avoided or teased by her classmates.  Although Claudette received some help from local civil rights leaders, they decided that she was not suitable to be the public face of a mass protest.  She was young, from a poor family, and had a temper at times.

As Claudette reeled from the lack of support from her friends and the community, she ran into personal trouble and ended up pregnant.  She was sent to Birmingham to have her child, but returned to Montgomery to be part of the protests and live at home.  Claudette was still willing to be part of the protests, and a year later she became a key plaintiff in the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.

This is an amazing story - I read it in one sitting, it was so engrossing.  Young adults will be drawn into reading about how a teenager wasn't given the respect she deserved by the adults leading the NAACP movement. Claudette showed tremendous courage and determination speaking up against the injustices of segregation, and yet she wasn't even invited to participate in the ceremony to end the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

This is a great nonfiction book for middle school and high school students.  Phillip Hoose brings the history alive.  He presents clear, descriptive background information, fascinating primary sources from newspapers, pamphlets and flyers, and many first-person accounts from interviews with Claudette and others.  Hoose clearly conveys all the risks of opposing segregation, along with the courage it took to face those risks. This is a compelling read for students who might think they know it all about this period of history.

I'm so glad to see this nominated for the National Book Award, in their Young People's Literature category. There are other great books nominated - see here for more information.  The awards will be presented November 18th.  For more great nonfiction books, check out the weekly Nonfiction Monday.  Today it's hosted by Lori Calabrese.

I purchased this review copy as part of my mock-Newbery book club.  Stop by your local bookstore to find a copy, or find it at your local library.

This books is available online at Amazon. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.  Below, I've included another fantastic book by Phillip Hoose, We Were There, Too, and the new nonfiction we're reading for our mock-Newbery: Marching For Freedom.


  1. MaryAnn,

    I love these biography books that focus on lesser-known individuals. It seems Claudette Colvin certainly has a story to tell and I look forward to reading it!

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Hello Mary Ann,

    I do love following your blog!

    The heroine of the book, Claudette Colvin and author Phillip Hoose have held a string of recent appearances for teen readers and activists. I have rolled those appearances into one YouTube that I hope captures Claudette as she is now and as she was in 1955 when she stood alone against segregation.

    I hope I have captured just a tiny piece of what is is to see Claudette live. What a woman, what a story.