How Ruby Bridges Overcame Racial Discrimination In School To Become The Star Of Civil Rights Movement

If the US Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling of ending segregation of African Americans in public schools was violated, there was little that colored people could actually do at that time. However, the one person who stood against this unfair practice was Ruby Bridges.

Although Ruby’s parents were uneducated, her mother wanted quality education for her child and made her attended kindergarten in an all-black school. After the Supreme Court’s ruling, she was admitted to the first grade of an all-white school, the William Frantz Elementary School. She was the only black child there.

On her very first day at school, Ruby was booed by an angry crowd there that had surrounded the school. Not only this, all the children of her first grade were withdrawn by their parents and even the teacher resigned. She was left all alone in her class.

However, to Ruby’s luck, Barbara Henry, who was assigned the first grade, took upon herself to teach her as a class of one for the rest of the year. She also took care of her safety by not allowing her onto the playground or the cafeteria.

Ruby’s ordeal in her elementary school caught national media attention and prompted artist Norman Rockwell to illustrate her walk to school on the cover of the 1964 edition of the ‘Look’ magazine, titling it ‘The Problem We All Live With’. Despite this, anti-integration protests continued at her school, but it was Ruby’s grit and determination that saw her through the school.

Ruby did the rest of her education in integrated settings too, helped by the African American community and child psychologist Robert Coles, who became her friend, mentor, and counselor. She also founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation to help involve parents in their children’s education.

After graduation, Ruby worked as a travel agent, got married and bore four sons. Her story would have remained under wraps, had it not been for Robert Coles, who wrote her biography, ‘The Story of Ruby Bridges’. This brought her into the media glare once again. She appeared on the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ in 1995, where she was reunited with Barbara Henry.

Ruby’s own book, ‘Through My Eyes’ recounted her life’s experiences. It went on to win the Carter G Woodson Book Award. She also received a Presidential Citizens Medal. However, the best compliment she received was from former US President Obama, who thanked her by saying, “I probably wouldn’t be here” without her contributions to the civil rights movement.


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New Orleans, 1960. La bimba afroamericana di 6 anni Ruby Bridges va al suo primo giorno di scuola, ma non è accompagnata in classe dalla mamma o dal papà, ma da quattro poliziotti armati. Il percorso da casa alla scuola lo ha fatto tra due ali di folla, passando in mezzo a persone che le urlavano addosso e tentavano di colpirla. Quando è entrata in aula era l'unica presente, gli altri alunni erano stati ritirati dai genitori e gli insegnanti si sono rifiutati di fare lezione. Tutti tranne una, Barbara Henry, che ha continuato ad insegnare ed è stata la sua unica maestra. Per un anno, la piccola, si è dovuta portare il cibo da casa evitando tentativi di avvelenamento. La sua famiglia ha subito ritorsioni: il padre è stato licenziato, alla madre è stato proibito fare la spesa nel negozio di alimentari vicino casa e i nonni sono stati espropriati dalla terra che coltivavano come mezzadri. Ruby Bridges era la prima nera ad entrare in una scuola fino ad allora riservata ai bianchi. Grazie a Edoardo Pivoni per foto e didascalia! #lefotografiechehannofattolastoria #rubybridges #neworleans

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