Born in 1954 in Mississippi, Ruby Bridges moved with her family to New Orleans when she was four. She was ordered by a judge to attend Frantz Elementary School for Whites. She was the first black child to ever walk into that school. Parents protested and chanted as she bravely walked through the front door surrounded by federal officers. After that, white parents threatened to pull their own children from the school and all but one teacher refused to teach her. This woman, Barbara Henry became her teacher and for over a year, she taught Ruby alone with no other child in the classroom.
Although the Brown v. Board of Education decision had been passed the year Ruby was born, many southern schools still had not become integrated. Many of them chose to shut down rather than integrate. Everyday as Ruby entered that building, men and women would stand outside the doors yelling out racial slurs to this little girl. Her father lost his job and her family was regularly threatened.
There was so much national news coverage about it, that over time, business leaders worried about the economic impact on the city. Although it took nearly two years, by the time Ruby was in second grade, there were other black children enrolled in her school and the classes had become integrated.
The date she first entered those doors, bravely walking with her head held high, was November 14, 1960. Fifty-three years ago today. I am grateful to her and to her teacher for standing tall and facing such adversity. I read her story to my class every year during Black History Month. I am always amazed and moved when I see the look of disbelief on the faces of my students when they hear her story. They cannot even fathom the idea that they would not be able to be in a school with some of their classmates if it weren’t for so many brave people like Ruby Bridges. I have written about it more than once. Our students are colorblind and the fact that they are oblivious to their differences is a blessing and one that they will be able to perpetuate as they grow up.
Thank you Ruby Bridges. I am grateful for you and all that you have done to make a difference in our world.