Claudette Colvin’s Fight to Clear Record Could Impact MLK and Parks Arrests

In Summary

Claudette Colvin’s journey to have her protesting arrest record removed is raising the possibility of the same consideration being given to late civil rights movement trailblazers Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. 

Claudette Colvin, a pioneer during the civil rights movement, has fought to have her arrest record from 70 years ago, for protesting against racial segregation, be expunged, according to the Associated Press

Her battle has opened up the possibility of the same consideration being offered to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, whose convictions are still on the books in Alabama’s capital. 

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Parks was convicted of breaking racial segregation laws after she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955, while King was ordered to pay a $500 fine for initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

In the case of King, an up-and-coming pastor at the time, efforts to reverse the conviction in court failed, according to civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who represented both King and Parks. 

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A few months before Park’s arrest, Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. “My mindset was on freedom,” she said after filing the expungement request. Her request has yet to be decided. 

“We might just decide to file a lawsuit on his behalf to have that record expunged,” Gray said. During the 1950s and 1960s numerous people were arrested in the South in connection to the civil rights demonstrations and viewed their arrest as a badge of honor for the culture.  

In 1963, Birmingham extended the opportunity for a mass pardon, but many people refused.  

Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Gina Ishman said expunging court documents removes convictions from defendants’ records but generally does not result in the destruction of documents, such as the historical police and court records involving people like Colvin, King and Parks. 

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