“Young people think Rosa Parks just sat down on a bus and ended segregation, but that wasn’t the case at all,” Ms. Colvin said in an animated interview at a diner near her apartment in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. “Maybe by telling my story — something I was afraid to do for a long time — kids will have a better understanding about what the civil rights movement was about.”
(excerpt from a New York Times article from November 2009 entitled From Footnote to Fame in Civil Rights History)
Rosa Parks was not the first person to sit in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was not the second person either. Rosa Parks was the sixth person and was chosen to represent the movement because she "fit the mode". The NAACP wanted to put a face to the Montgomery bus boycott that people could identify with.
This article is not meant to demean or devalue the efforts of Rosa Parks or the decision to use her as the face of the boycott. This article is to acknowledge and celebrate the women who paved the way for the boycott to happen.
Raised by her great-aunt and uncle, Colvin grew up in the King Hill, Montgomery. King Hill by far was not the affluent section for blacks. It wasn't even considered to be middle class. During an interview in 2000 she remarked:
"Middle-class blacks looked down on King Hill," says Colvin today. "We had unpaved streets and outside toilets. We used to have a lot of juke joints up there, and maybe men would drink too much and get into a fight. It wasn't a bad area, but it had a reputation."
"It's my constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare, it's my constitutional right." Colvin felt compelled to stand her ground. "I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other—saying, 'Sit down girl!' I was glued to my seat," she later told Newsweek.
At the time of the lawsuit, Browder was a housewife. She had several careers throughout her life, including working as a nurse, midwife, seamstress, and businesswoman. She earned a bachelor's degree in science with honors from Alabama State University.
Browder was affiliated with several civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Montgomery Improvement Association, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Mary Louise Smith
Mary Louise Smith was born in 1937. She was arrested in October 1955 at the age of 18 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on the segregated bus system.
It has been reported that he NAACP rejected her as a defendant in their test case because her father was rumored to be an alcoholic.