Ruby Bridges was born in Tylertown, Mississippi on September 8, 1954. At the age of two, she moved to New Orleans with her parents, Abon and Lucille Bridges, to seek better opportunities for their family.
When Ruby was in kindergarten, she was chosen to take a test to determine if she could attend an all-white school. This was due to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education which ordered all schools to desegregate. Ruby was one of six students to pass the test and her parents decided to send her to an all-white elementary school to receive a better education.
On November 14, 1960, at the age of six, Ruby became the very first African American child to attend the all-white public William Frantz Elementary School. Ruby and her Mother were escorted by federal marshals to the school. When they arrived, two marshals walked in front of Ruby, and two behind her. This image was captured by Norman Rockwell in his painting "The Problem We All Must Live With," which is now on display in the White House outside the Oval Office.
Ruby faced blatant racism every day while entering the school. Many parents kept their children at home. People outside the school threw objects, police set up barricades. She was threatened and even “greeted" by a woman displaying a black doll in a wooden coffin. Only one teacher, Barbara Henry, agreed to teach her. Ruby was the only student in Barbara Henry’s class because all the other children had been pulled out by their parents. She was not allowed to go to the cafeteria or outside for recess with the other students. When she needed to use the restroom, she was escorted by a federal marshal. Ruby’s family faced discrimination outside of the school as well. However, as the year went on, many families began to send their children back to school and the protests and civil disturbances stopped.
During Ruby’s second year at William Frantz Elementary, she no longer needed to be escorted by federal marshals. She walked to school on her own & was in a classroom with other students. Ruby had paved the way for other African American children!
In 1999, Ruby formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation in New Orleans. Ruby’s foundation promotes tolerance, respect, and appreciation of people’s differences. Through education, the Ruby Bridges Foundation strives to end racism.
Video of Ruby Bridges with Barack Obama in the White House:
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