AN AMERICAN PROFILE:
Pioneer in Civil Rights
Ruby Nell Bridges was born on September 8th, 1954 in Tylertown, Mississippi. When she was four years old, her family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where blacks and whites were kept separate. Blacks and whites used different drinking fountains, sat in different seats on buses, and even went to separate schools.
When Ruby was old enough to go to school, her father wanted her to go to an all black school. That was because he was afraid that people would get angry if she went to William Frantz School, an all white school. Ruby’s mother on the other hand knew that Ruby would get a better education at the all white school and insisted on getting Ruby the best education possible.
At age six, Ruby became one of the first black students to go to an all white school. Back then, white people didn’t think that blacks should be treated as equals and therefore, shouldn’t be allowed to go to their schools. A lot of people became angry when they found out that Ruby, a little black girl, was going to a white school. Some people even threatened to hurt Ruby if she enrolled at William Frantz.
On her first day at the new school, Ruby was led into the building by U.S marshals who protected her from all of the angry white people protesting outside. There were kids and adults holding signs and yelling at Ruby for coming to their school. Some parents even took their children out of school because they didn’t want them in classes with a black girl.
In fact, no white parents wanted Ruby in the same class as their children. Therefore, Ruby had to be in a class by herself. She was the only student in the room with her teacher Mrs. Barbara Henry. Mrs. Henry treated Ruby very kindly. Ruby was her only student and they worked alone in a classroom. They even had to be on a separate floor in the school, away from the white students.
Although it was difficult at times, Ruby stayed strong and remained in school. After she graduated she became a travel agent and decided to help other black children. She volunteered at the William Frantz School, the same school she attended when she was young. Eventually, she developed the Ruby Bridges Foundation to help explain to children the gift of reading, the power of education, and the importance of integration. Along with her contributions to the civil rights movement, Ruby married and has raised four sons and four nieces.
Although she did not know it at the time, when Ruby Bridges entered the all white school, she made a big difference in the lives of colored Americans. Ruby Bridges was made famous for her role in the desegregation of American public schools. Part of her fame comes from movies, books, and paintings created to tell her story and to depict the struggles she must have faced by entering an all white school
Ruby Bridges Hall continues to work on bettering the lives of African Americans and encourages them to get a good education and to continue the fight for equality saying, “Racism is a grown-up disease. Let’s stop using kids to spread it.”