As Claudette Colvin, a civil rights pioneer, aims to have her records erased from her role in the civil rights movement, similar considerations have arisen regarding the clearance of the arrest records of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The convictions of Parks and King are still upheld in Montgomery, Ala.
At the age of 15, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white person in which she was forcibly removed by police officers, arrested and put on unspecified probation. Nine months following this occurrence, Parks, a black seamstress and activist, refused to give up her seat to a white person in which she was arrested and fined $10. Parks refused to pay the $10 fine she had been given. Likewise, King’s role in leading the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott led to a conviction and hefty $500 fine after courts ruled that he trespassed a law banning boycotts in 1956.
“Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Gina Ishman said expunging court documents removes convictions from defendants’ record but generally does not result in the destruction of documents, such as the historical police and court records involving people like Colvin, King and Parks,” The Detroit News stated. Similarly, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey, the chief prosecutor in Montgomery, expressed his support towards the expungement of the arrest records of King and Parks. However, Bailey explained the need to attain specifics of these arrests prior to responding in court.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, large quantities of people faced arrest across the South throughout the civil rights demonstrations. After the city of Birmingham offered pardons to people who endured arrest during these demonstrations in 1963, many former protesters expressed that they viewed their arrest records as a badge of honor towards civil rights. Hence, many people refused to receive the pardon offered by the city of Birmingham.
Colvin explained that the conviction had never distressed her, but her family was concerned because she had never been given any notice stating that her probation concluded. According to Colvin, the worst part of the ordeal was losing friends from high school due to her act of resistance. “They didn’t want to be around me,” Colvin shared.
As Colvin seeks to have her arrest records wiped away, she notes the symbolic nature of this decision as she aims to honor the justice that so many Black people fought and continue to fight for within the United States.
“My mindset was on freedom,” Colvin stated as she concluded filling out the expungement request.
Sources: The Detroit News