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“Black”, on France 4: Tania de Montaigne brings the forgotten heroine Claudette Colvin back to life



Listening to Tania de Montaigne retrace the destiny of Claudette Colvin is to dive into the segregationist America of the 1950s, it is to put yourself in the shoes of a young black girl from Alabama who will write history. On March 2, 1955, in Montgomery, this 15-year-old girl, poor and religious, refuses to give up her seat to a white woman on the bus taking her home from school. Defying the Jim Crow laws which impose the separation of blacks and whites, especially in public transport, Claudette Colvin is arrested by the police.

In a captivating show – captured here at the Courbevoie event center, in January 2021 – the writer unfolds the story of this 15-year-old teenager and the fight of the African-American community for civil rights. Blackadaptation of the biography Black. The unknown life of Claudette Colvin (Grasset, 2015), written by Tania de Montaigne and awarded the Simone-Veil prize in 2015, is a form of documentary theater that can be easily watched on screen. This is not a conference, but a story cleverly staged by Stéphane Foenkinos and wonderfully told by Tania de Montaigne, who agreed to go on stage to capture her own text.

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King

And what text! Accurate, enlightening, exciting. “Follow my voice, only my voice…” We adhere without hesitation to his invitation, as if seized by the life of his unjustly forgotten heroine. Why has posterity remembered the name of Rosa Parks – who, on the 1er December 1955, will also refuse to give up her place to a white man and will become a figure in the fight against racial segregation – and not that of Claudette Colvin?

With rectitude, Tania de Montaigne makes us experience what being black and a woman meant in post-slavery America. In a sober and eloquent voice, she interweaves the destinies of Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. In this year 1955, a young pastor then little known, Martin Luther King, will engage in the Montgomery bus boycott, a founding episode in the fight for civil rights. It was not until November 1956 that the Supreme Court deemed this segregation in public transport unconstitutional.

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Throughout this intimate, historical, political and social story resonate the voices of great committed black singers, from Billie Holiday to Nina Simone. The stage is embellished with large panels onto which are projected excerpts from concerts, films and symbolic places from the 1950s. And, of course, the face of the young Claudette Colvin.

This woman with an incredible destiny is now 83 years old. With BlackTania de Montaigne pays her a very beautiful tribute, gives a lesson in history at the height of women and takes us on a journey without fail in the fight of this African-American woman who remained in the shadows. “When I look at you, I tell myself that you had to be someone to be the one who was not Rosa Parks”concludes the writer, leaving the stage.

Black, dand with Tania de Montaigne, adapted and directed by Stéphane Foenkinos (65 minutes). France 4

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