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Friday, February 24, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

TITLE: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice 

AUTHOR: Phillip Hoose 
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
DATE OF PUBLICATION: January 20, 2009
FORMAT: Hardcover, 133 pages
GENRE: Non-fiction, Biography, Childrens/Young Adult


“When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’” – Claudette Colvin 

On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge segregation again as a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South. 

Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.


I read this book aloud to my children. It deals with the racial segregation laws that were in place in the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama  specifically as they related to bus passengers. Back then, there was a “white” section of the bus and a “coloured” section. All riders entered through the front door and dropped their coins in the fare box. If there were white passengers already aboard, a black passenger had to leave the bus and re-enter through the rear door after paying the fare. The first four rows, each containing ten seats, were reserved for the white folks. Even if there were no white passengers aboard, the black passengers could not sit in those rows and were forced to stand if the rest of the bus was full! If the first four rows were full and a new white passenger boarded the bus, the driver would order the black passengers to relinquish their seat. Unbelievably, every black person in a row would have to give up his seat for one white passenger to sit in the row because whites and blacks could not sit in the same row!!

Claudette Colvin was a mere 15 year-old teenager when she decided to take a stand and refuse to give up her seat for a white passenger. Police were called, and Claudette was removed from the bus claiming that it was her constitutional right that she did not have to give up her seat if there were no empty seats. This young lady’s actions were the catalyst that led to the 381-day bus boycott by blacks, which financially crippled the Montgomery City Lines bus company which lost $3,200 per day. Claudette, together with three other women, sued the City of Montgomery and the State of Alabama [Browder v. Gayle] arguing that segregated buses were unconstitutional. One of the judges said that, “The testimony of...Miss Colvin and the others reinforced the Constitution’s position that you can’t abridge the freedoms of the individual. The boycott case was a simple case of legal and human rights being denied.” The city appealed the case, but the decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. After federal marshals served written notices on city officials, the city was forced to abide by the judge’s decision to integrate the buses.

My children and I found this book fascinating. Racial discrimination is not something that my kids have ever been exposed to, so they were appalled to find out how African American people were treated back then. The book is filled with black and white photographs depicting the “whites only” and “colored only” signs on buses and establishments such as movie theatres, restaurants, and hospitals. It certainly was an eye-opening look into a sad part of American history, and it taught my children that anyone can be instrumental in making a change, even a child like Claudette Colvin.

MY RATING: 4 stars! We really enjoyed it and recommend it as a wonderful addition to Black/African History studies!

This book qualifies as:


  1. This sounds like a book every child (and adult) should read.

  2. I heard an extract of this book on The Book Report, it seems like its going to be a good read! If you want to listen to past shows go to in the archives.

  3. Nice! I haven't heard of this book yet. We're doing a week-long Black History Month Special over at GatheringBooks. Wish I had known about this book sooner, we could have included it in our featured books. :) Thanks for the recommendation. :)

  4. An important story to share with children! Thanks for sharing your review!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out


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