Oklahoma Christian University To Host Civil Rights Pioneers

Monday, February 9th 2015, 5:44 pm
By: News 9

In honor of Black History month, Oklahoma Christian University is hosting two major pioneers in the Civil Rights movement.

One was a teenage activist in the 1950s, the other, an attorney who represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Before there was Rosa Parks there was 15-year-old Claudette Colvin. Colvin was the first person arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus.

"I could not take one more second of that Jim crow law," Colvin said.

It was March 2, 1955, months before fellow pioneer Parks also would not give up her seat to a white person. The event sparked the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott.

"I could not move because history had me glued to the seat," Colvin said.

Colvin was charged with disorderly conduct. Her attorney was Fred Gray.

"It was a matter of filing lawsuits, one after the other in every aspect of American life," Gray said.

The now 84-year-old Gray has a steep resume. He represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, and helped integrate Auburn University and the University of Alabama. He was portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the film, 'Selma.'

"I think the actor did a great job. It was a very small role that is shown in the movie, however, the role of filing the lawsuit is what made it possible for the march to take place," Gray said.

Both Gray and Colvin will reunite on stage at Oklahoma Christian University for a sold-out event Monday night to share their remarkable stories a part of the History Speaks series. 

Learn more about the event at Oklahoma Christian University.

"We have different problems today, and I want the youth to move on forward and learn about their history, so it won't repeat itself in a different form," Colvin said, who resides in New York.

Gray has continued to live in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he still practices law.

"I am delighted that they are recognizing Claudette, because if there had been no Claudette Colvin, who did what she did, there may never have been a Rosa Parks who did what she did," Gray said.