Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges

Although we’ve talked about adults so far, there’s one 6-year-old girl, Ruby Bridges, who played a big part in advancing the rights of Black schoolchildren. On the morning of November 14, 1960, Ruby walked into the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana as the first Black student to desegregate the school.

When she arrived at school, Ruby and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals that entire first year while angry protestors stood outside the school for months, shouting horrific things at the little girl. Because she was just six years old, Ruby didn’t realize what was going on and thought the screaming crowds resembled a Mardi Gras celebration. Over time, she did become afraid of the angry crowd that gathered day after day, but she did not let it keep her from going to school.

There was only one teacher willing to help Ruby. Her name was Barbara Henry, a white woman from Boston. But Ruby was the only student in Henry’s class for the rest of the school year. She ate lunch alone and would play with her teacher during recess. She did not miss one day of school.

It was very hard for Ruby and her family, and though they suffered, they received support from friends, neighbors, and others across America. School got better for Ruby the next year, and she attended classes with both Black and white children.

Key Point

Ruby may have just been 6-years old at the time, but she had a large and historic impact on the future of equality in America. Each of these brave, courageous, and determined activists played a big role in the civil rights movement. They played different parts but were a part of the same movement. It was because of people like Rosa Parks, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, and Ruby Bridges that all people in America, regardless of the color of their skin, are treated equally.