Chapters 1–4

Courageous and determined, teenager Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus and became a plaintiff in a landmark civil rights case. This nonfiction account celebrates an often unacknowledged American heroine.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. ordinance
    a statute enacted by a city government
    It also didn’t matter that the city bus law—or ordinance, as city laws are called—had said since 1900 that no rider had to give up a seat unless another was available.
  2. custom
    a specific practice of long standing
    After the sheet music sold widely, Jim Crow became a standard character in minstrel shows and then evolved into a term to represent the whole system of laws and customs that segregated black and white Americans.
    Compare with the word from this list, "tradition."
  3. segregation
    a social system with separate facilities for minority groups
    Together, the whole system of racial segregation was known as “Jim Crow.”
  4. cluster
    a grouping of a number of similar things
    They gathered in clusters at the corners, chatting and teasing and cramming for tests, until the green and gold buses chugged into view and the doors snapped open.
  5. humiliate
    cause to feel shame
    But everything about riding a bus was humiliating for black passengers.
  6. tradition
    a specific practice of long standing
    But Montgomery had its own rules and traditions.
    Compare with the word from this list, "custom."
  7. weary
    physically and mentally fatigued
    Day after day weary black passengers remained standing over empty seats in front.
  8. enforce
    ensure observance of laws and rules
    Every driver understood from the day he was hired that his main job, other than driving the bus, was to enforce the Jim Crow rules.
  9. convert
    change from one system to another or to a new plan or policy
    In 1886, Montgomery became the first city in the Western Hemisphere to convert a street railway system to electricity.
  10. plead
    enter a defendant's answer
    They also pleaded guilty and paid fines.
  11. exasperated
    greatly annoyed; out of patience
    The exasperated driver radioed police, who were waiting at the next stop to arrest them.
  12. incident
    a public disturbance
    The most shocking incident of all happened in 1952, when a man named Hilliard Brooks boarded a City Lines bus, dropped a dime in the fare box, and headed down the aisle toward the back.
  13. homicide
    the killing of a human being by another human being
    The coroner ruled his death justifiable homicide, justifiable because the officer said Brooks had been resisting arrest.
  14. overwhelm
    overcome by superior force
    The white judges, the intimidating police, the insulting drivers, and the crushing weight of all the years of custom and law were simply overwhelming.
  15. embolden
    give encouragement to
    The ruling allowed black students to anticipate a different future and emboldened a few of them to try to make it happen.
  16. dominate
    be in control
    The biggest mystery of all was how the white man came to dominate us.
  17. sermon
    an address of a religious nature
    First there’d be regular church, then a program, then a glee club competition, then another sermon, then different choirs would sing.
  18. boycott
    refusal to have commercial dealings with some organization
    We didn’t get a TV until the bus boycott, but our radio ran off a battery that gave us about an hour at a time of a white station, WSFA.
  19. degrading
    characterized by dishonor
    They said it in such a degrading way; they never said “please” or asked if we minded.
  20. congregation
    a group of people who habitually attend a given church
    It shriveled the leg of one girl in our congregation and deformed the arm of a little boy.
  21. emulate
    strive to equal or match, especially by imitating
    Middle-class black girls would always try to separate themselves from dark-skinned girls like me and emulate white girls.
  22. sentence
    pronounce a punishment on in a court of law
    After a brief trial, an all-white jury sentenced Reeves to death in the electric chair.
  23. prejudice
    a partiality preventing objective consideration of an issue
    That was when I and a lot of other students really started thinking about prejudice and racism.
    This word and the other vocabulary word, "racism", are often used interchangeably, but they come from different root definitions. This one has more to do with judging from earlier thoughts or misconceptions.
  24. racism
    discriminatory or abusive behavior towards another people
    That was when I and a lot of other students really started thinking about prejudice and racism.
    This word and the other vocabulary word, "prejudice", are often used interchangeably, but they come from different root definitions. This one derives from the word, "race", and is undeniably linked to this social problem.
  25. retract
    formally reject or disavow
    By then, Reeves had retracted his confession, insisting he had been forced by police to make it.
  26. testimony
    a solemn statement made under oath
    But after two days’ testimony, the new jury—again entirely white—took only thirty-four minutes to restore Reeves’s death sentence.
  27. liberate
    grant freedom to; free from confinement
    I was going be like Harriet Tubman and go North to liberate my people.
  28. landmark
    an event marking an important historical change of course
    The children involved in the landmark civil rights lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education, which challenged segregation in public schools, in Topeka, Kansas, 1953.
  29. grievance
    an allegation that something denies some legal right
    I was done talking about “good hair” and “good skin” but not addressing our grievances.
  30. penitentiary
    a correctional institution for those convicted of crimes
    They kept telling me I was going to Atmore, the women’s penitentiary.
Created on September 14, 2013 (updated August 8, 2018)

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