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The juvenile record of Claudette Colvin was expunged 66 years after her arrest for refusing to give her seat to a white person on an Alabama bus.
The civil rights pioneer, 82, had her name cleared after an Alabama family court judge granted Colvin’s petition to expunge her record last month. Montgomery Court Judge Calvin Williams signed the order for her record to be destroyed on Nov. 24, his office confirmed to NBC News.
“My reason for doing it is I get a chance to tell my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, what life was like living in segregated America, in segregated Montgomery,” the trailblazer explained to the Montgomery Advertiser. “The laws, the hardship, the intimidation that took place during those years and the reason why that day I took a stand and defied the segregated law.”
“I am so grateful that after all of these decades Claudette’s name has finally been cleared,” Colvin’s attorney Phillip Ensler tells PEOPLE. “Our hope is that she is able to feel a sense of peace and relief. So many in Montgomery and those who believe in justice, freedom and equality throughout the world are moved by this monumental decision.”
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Birmingham, Ala., Public Library Archives
In 1955, Colvin was a 15-year-old student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery, Alabama. She was inspired by Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth when she refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus, and police were called to arrest her.
“I said, ‘I’m not getting up,'” she previously told PEOPLE. “It felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder, and Sojourner Truth was pushing down on another. History had me glued to the seat.”
With her arrest record cleared, the civil rights activist still wants to see criminal justice reform in America.
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“Double standards still exist in the judicial system,” she explained to the Montgomery Advisor. “One set of rules for African Americans, and another set of rules for Caucasians.”
Colvin realized that her actions may have surprised some people at the time but she knew their importance.
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“Everybody portrayed me as if something was wrong with me,” she previously explained to PEOPLE. “‘That’s not normal behavior for a Negro girl, to speak out and be brave against the injustice you see right before your eyes.’ “
“I’m glad to speak out,” she continued. “We’ve had some triumphs and some failures. But, like that Langston Hughes poem [‘Mother to Son’], I’m still going, I’m still climbing.”
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