On November 14, 1960, six-year old Ruby Bridges integrated an all-white school. The school was William Frantz Elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana. The irony was that Bridges was born in 1954, the same year that the Brown v Board of Education case decided. It was in this case that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional.
Bridges was one of the black children that were given a test. The test that was worded and designed to be especially difficult for black children to pass. The state of Louisiana wanted an excuse to not integrate, even after the highest court in the U.S. said they had to. Bridges passed the test and as a result, was chosen to integrate an all-white school. She lived closer to her white school but previously had to travel miles to the black school.
As Bridges integrated the school, she was met with threats e.g. a white parents threatened to poison her. She was also met with whites presenting a coffin with the body of a black doll inside. All very gruesome images for a young six-year old to experience. Parents complained, students were pulled from classes and teachers quit. Only one teacher, Ms. Barbara Henry and her student Ruby Bridges remained. They were the only ones in the school. Them being the sole people in a school building didn’t last forever as white students eventually returned to William Frantz Elementary school and thus the school became integrated.
During the beginning stages of the Civil Rights Movement, the act of integration came at a cost. Both of Bridges’ parents lost their jobs and her grandparents, who were share croppers, were turned off their land. However, her neighbors, both black and white showed supports. Neighbors offered her parents job. Some even babysat while the parents worked.
Bridges graduated from a desegregated high school. She went on to live a life as a travel agent, got married and had four children – all sons. She re-united with her teacher, Ms. Henry in the mid 1990’s and the two of them did speaking engagements together. Bridges received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award following the books she wrote about her experiences at William Frantz Elementary. In 1999, Bridges established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change in education. The next year, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.