Ruby Bridges - Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (2024)

Ruby Bridges - Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (1)

Ruby Bridges was born on September 8, 1954, in Tylertown, Mississippi, the oldest of farmers Lucille and Abon Bridges’ five children. When she was 2 years old, her family moved to New Orleans in search of a better life. Perhaps it is no coincidence that 1954 also marked Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that ended racial segregation in public schools.

Southern states continued to resist integration, and in 1959, Bridges attended a segregated New Orleans kindergarten. A year later, a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate. The city of New Orleans responded by creating entrance exams for African American students to see whether they could compete academically. Though Ruby was among the six students who passed the test, her parents debated sending her to the all-white William Frantz Elementary School, knowing that families and students were unlikely to welcome Blacks. But her mother convinced her father to let Ruby attend—she should have the educational opportunities that they had been denied.

Ruby Bridges and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals to the school every day that year. Crowds screamed vicious slurs at her, and she spent her first day in the principal’s office due to the chaos—angry white parents pulled their children from school, and the most ardent segregationists withdrew them permanently. Barbara Henry, a white Boston native, was the only teacher willing to accept Ruby. She was a class of one and ate lunch alone, but she never missed a day of school.

Some families supported her bravery. Others continued to protest. And the Bridges family suffered for their courage. Abon lost his job, and stores refused to sell to Lucille. Over time, other African American students enrolled. In 1964, artist Norman Rockwell celebrated Bridges’ courage with a painting entitled “The Problem We All Live With.” The iconic image shows the small girl with notebooks and ruler in hand, being led by U.S. marshals, a tomato splattered against the wall.

Bridges graduated from a desegregated high school, became a travel agent, married, and had four sons. A lifelong activist for racial equality, she established the Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote tolerance and create change through education. The following year, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. She wrote about her early experiences in “Through My Eyes,” which received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award in 2000. President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001.

A bronze statue of Bridges stands proudly in the courtyard of William Frantz Elementary School, now home to the Akili Academy. It honors the young girl who opened a door for generations of students to enter.

Ruby Bridges - Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (2024)


Did Ruby Bridges fight for equality? ›

A lifelong activist for racial equality, in 1999, Ruby established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2000, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Did Ruby Bridges parents support her? ›

Bridges' father was initially reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to "take this step forward ... for all African-American children".

Who was protecting Ruby Bridges? ›

The Children's Museum Remembers Former U.S. Marshal Charles Burks, Who Protected 6-Year-Old Ruby Bridges.

How did Ruby Bridges show kindness? ›

She showed unforgettable loving forgiveness and courage when faced with the ugly screaming White mobs who jeered and taunted her every day as she walked into William Frantz Elementary School. Federal marshals had to escort Ruby to school, but she never quit or turned back.

What happened to Ruby Bridges when she was 4? ›

When she was four years old, her family moved to New Orleans. Two years later a test was given to the city's African American schoolchildren to determine which students could enter all-white schools. Bridges passed the test and was selected for enrollment at the city's William Frantz Elementary School.

Did Ruby Bridges pass the test? ›

The Board of Education which ordered all schools to desegregate. Ruby was one of six students to pass the test and her parents decided to send her to an all-white elementary school to receive a better education.

What did Ruby Bridges wanted to do? ›

Ruby went on to graduate from a desegregated highschool, became a travel agent, married, and had four sons. Today, Ruby continues to be a civil rights activist. She established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to help promote tolerance and create change through education.

Did Ruby Bridges go to school alone? ›

Bridges says she sees her 6-year-old self enduring a lonely and confusing year in the children's letters. After walking past mobs of protesters, Bridges attended classes alone — and did so for the full year. Some white families permanently withdrew their children from the school because Bridges was a student there.

Was Ruby Bridges a civil rights activist? ›

Ruby Bridges: A Pioneering Civil Rights Activist Who Continues to Inspire Today. Ruby Bridges is an extraordinary figure in American history, renowned for her unwavering commitment and bravery as she became the first African American child to integrate an all-white elementary school in the South.

What was Ruby Bridges' teacher's name? ›

Barbara Henry (born May 1, 1932) is a retired American teacher most notable for teaching Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to attend the all-white William Frantz Elementary School, located in New Orleans.

What is Ruby Bridges' famous quote? ›

One famous quote by Ruby Bridges was from a speech given at the dedication of her new Ruby Bridges Foundation ceremony. She said, "Racism is a grownup disease. Let's stop using kids to spread it."

What was Ruby Bridges honored for? ›

On Nov. 14, 1960, Ruby Bridges became the first African American student to attend an all-white school in New Orleans, officially integrating U.S. schools.

Where did Ruby Bridges live? ›

When did Ruby Bridges move to New Orleans? ›

Looking for better employment opportunities, the Bridges family moved to New Orleans in 1958. The New Orleans school crisis began in the summer of 1960, but the seeds for it were laid back in 1954.

What type of discrimination did Ruby Bridges face? ›

Ruby faced blatant racism every day while entering the school. Many parents kept their children at home. People outside the school threw objects, police set up barricades. She was threatened and even “greeted" by a woman displaying a black doll in a wooden coffin.

What is Ruby Bridges' favorite color? ›

Wear purple! It's Ruby's favorite color. Ask your school to participate.

Why did Ruby Bridges get an award? ›

Forty years after breaking the segregation barrier in New Orleans, Ruby Bridges was badged as an honorary deputy marshall for her inspiration and courage for our nation. On October of 2003 she received the Legacy of Caring Award as well as the United States Presidential Citizens Medal in January 2001.

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