Because she was amazing.
A lot of us remember Rosa Parks as the heroic activist who became the face of the Montgomery bus boycott. But few people know about the case that preceded hers. At fifteen years old, Claudette Colvin took a stand against segregation- by sitting down.
In 1955, Montgomery was segregated.
Activists had been working for years to dismantle segregation laws, and they were gaining momentum. The NAACP had successfully litigated the case of Irene Morgan in the Supreme Court in 1946, arguing that segregated interstate bus lines violated the Commerce Clause. However, this victory only applied to busses that crossed state lines. Southern bus lines still enforced segregation. When Claudette Colvin boarded the bus on March 2nd, 1955, she sat down in the center of the bus. When she was asked to move for a white passenger, she refused.
"I remember they dragged me off bus because I refused to walk. They handcuffed me and took me to an adult jail."
The aftermath of her protest was extremely difficult. Her family feared retaliation from the KKK, Some of her classmates were inspired by her, while others ostracised her, worried that she was too much of an extremist. However, Colvin was undeterred. While she wasn't the first person to refuse to give up her seat, she was the first to seek out a lawyer. Community leaders, however, decided to wait.
"I knew why they chose Rosa. They thought I would be too militant for them. They wanted someone mild and genteel like Rosa."
Colvin was fifteen, she didn't have formal training as an activist, and community leaders thought they could make a stronger case with Rosa Parks at the center. (Colvin also became pregnant out of wedlock at 16, which no doubt influenced their decision). She was however the star witness in the landmark case Browder v. Gayle, which ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama.