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The Civil Rights Superstar Conundrum 

Wednesday, Jan 26 2011
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We're a country obsessed with superstars. It is never enough to simply be good, or even better than good; someone must be the best. Maybe this accounts for the rise of the competitive reality show, where average people can prove themselves to be the very best at, say, cleaning their house, straightening picture frames, or grooming dogs. Unfortunately, this obsession has leached into history books, where we proclaim people to be the very best in their realm of progressive expertise — One Feminist to Rule Them All! In reality, it takes hundreds upon thousands of people to build a movement, not just one or two. In civil rights, Claudette Colvin's name might not be as ubiquitous as Rosa Parks', but she refused to give up a seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus nine months before Parks did the same. Colvin is among the people who appear today in Riding While Black 1955: Claudette Colvin/Walking While Black 1999: Byronn Bain. Colvin was just a high school student when she refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger, and, like Parks, she was arrested and taken to jail. She later became the star witness in the federal case that would desegregate Montgomery buses. She also moved to New York City, became a nurses' aide, and was the muse of a poet laureate and the subject of a book. She may not be a household name, but she undoubtedly made an indelible mark on history, if not on every history book. Activist, author, and hip-hop artist Bain performs and appears in conversation with Colvin and educator Enid Lee.
Sun., Feb. 6, 1:30 p.m., 2011

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Andy Wright

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