Montgomery Bus Boycott — Biographic
Dr. Gwen Patton Collection, Trenholm State College Archives
See Montgomery Bus
Boycott for background & more information.
See also Montgomery Bus
Boycott for web links.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF AURELIA ELISEERA SHINE BROWDER (COLEMAN)
Aurelia Eliseera Shine Browder (Coleman) January 29, 1919-February 04, 1971,
was a pioneer in the Civil Right Movement of the 1950's and 6O's. She was
the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit (Browder vs Gayle), which caused
the end of the Separate But Equal Laws of the Land (Plessy vs.
Ferguson - 1886) and the end of segregated busing in Montgomery, Alabama
and ultimately the South.
On February 01,1956, at 12:45 p.m., Aurelia S. Browder, Claudette Colvin,
Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Jeanette Reese filed the Lawsuit in
Federal Court and with the exception of Jeanette Reese, who withdrew from
the case due to intimidation from white community, testified before a three
(3) Federal Judge Panel: Frank M. Johnson, Richard T. Rives and Seyborne
Lynn on May 11, 1956 of their mistreatments and arrest on the Montgomery
City Line buses on the respective dates of March 02, April 29, October 16,
and October 21,1955, which caused them to file this lawsuit. They were
energized by the arrest of Rosa Parks, who was arrested on December 01,
1955, for the same infraction thus were determined to put an end to
segregated busing and second class citizenship for Negroes in the City of
On June 05, 1956, the three (3) Federal Judge Panel ruled 2 to 1, that
segregated busing was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld this
decision on November 13, December 17, December 20, and December 21, 1956,
when the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of buses in Montgomery,
Alabama as remedy and resolution to the Browder vs. Gayle Lawsuit.
This Supreme Court's decision legitimized the bus boycott, the actions of
Martin Luther King, Jr. and to that movement's leaders.
She helped sustained the bus boycott with the use of her vehicles to
would-be bus riders. Mrs. Browder was also active in the fight to increase
black voters. To that end, she tutored many would be voters to assist them
in passing voter examinations. She was diligent in her efforts to eliminate
the poll tax charged to registered voters. She transported voters to the
polls and would-be voters for registration.
Mrs. Aurelia S. Browder was a student at Alabama State Teacher's College,
who graduated with honors; a member of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Southern Christian Leadership
Conference (SCLC), Women's Political Council (WPC), and the Montgomery
Improvement Association (MIA), when she became the lead plaintiff in this
landmark decision lawsuit (Browder vs. Gayle).
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MARY LOUISE SMITH (WARE)
Mary Louise Smith (Ware), Civil Rights Pioneer, was a plaintiff in the
lawsuit Browder vs. Gayle in 1956, which caused the desegregation of
buses in Montgomery Alabama due to her testimony and others on May 11, 1956.
This lawsuit ended the 6O-year old Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of
the 1890's. Mrs. Ware lives and has lived all of her life in Montgomery, AL.
She is the mother of 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 3
great-grandchildren. She is a member of the Saint Jude Catholic Church of
Montgomery, AL, where she also attended school in her youth.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF CLAUDETTE COLVIN
Claudette Calvin was born September 5, 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her
biological parents are C.P. Austin and Mary Jane Austin (Gadson). She is the
oldest of eight sisters.
During her early childhood her adopted parents Q. P. and Mary Ann Colvin
lived in the rural community of Pine level, Alabama. Claudette attended the
Springhill Baptist Elementary school then located on Ramer Route 1.
Later she moved to Montgomery and lived in an area called King Hill. She
attended Booker T. Washington School from 1949 to 1956. She didn't finish
her senior year but later she received her G.E.D. She attended the Alabama
State Teachers College in Montgomery for one year.
At the age of fifteen, what would be later known as her greatest achievement
in life, was her significant role in desegregating the buses in Montgomery
Alabama. Claudette is one of the unsung heroes in the Civil Rights Movement.
Nine months before Rosa Parks arrest, Claudette was arrested on March 2,
1955 for a similar act of resistance. She was one of the four plaintiffs who
filed a lawsuit against segregated bus seating. The presiding attorney was
Fred D. Gray. The case was successful. It was a jubilant day in the history
of the city of Montgomery.
As early as 1979, Claudette's name started surfacing during Negro History
Month. The Birmingham News did a feature story by Frank Sikora in 1980, New
York Governor Mario M. Cuomo awarded her with the MLK, Jr. Medal of Freedom
in 1990. The bronze medal is New York State's highest honor of recognition
for those individuals of outstanding accomplishments in the field of civil
and human rights. Harry Belafonte received the medal in 1986. The Selma
Times Journal featured her in 1991, The National Voting Rights Museum
and Institute added a picture display of Claudette in 1994. There was a one
minute flash of her story on Lifetime Television in 1995. Claudette was
featured in the cover story of USA Today Newspaper on November 25,
1995, the Montgomery Advertiser in 1996 and the Washington
Post on April1 12, 1998. She has been mentioned in several books such as
"Freedom's Children" by Ellen Levine, "Parting the Waters" by
Taylor Bunch, "Bus Ride to Justice" by Atty. Fred D. Gray, "The
Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It", the memoirs of Jo
Ann Gibson Robinson, to name a few.
Claudette has worked for 30 years at a Catholic Nursing Home as a nursing
assistant. She is the mother of two boys, the eldest died at her home in
1993 and the youngest is a Certified Public Accountant in Atlanta, Georgia.
She has five adorable grandchildren and she can say that she has reaped the
fruits of her labor through them. She resides in Bronx, New York and enjoys
reading and cooking.
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