Ruby Bridges from Thinkquest

Ruby Bridges played an important part in the Civil Rights Movement. Ruby was born September 8, 1954 in Tylertown, Mississippi. A year later, her family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. At that time, people wanted to keep blacks and whites separate because whites didn’t think that blacks were as good as them. For example, blacks and whites had separate drinking fountains, blacks had to sit in the back of buses, and blacks and whites each had their own separate schools.

Getting a Better Education

Ruby was a little girl who was one of the first blacks to go to an all white school. Her dad didn’t want her to go to the all-white William Frantz School. He didn’t want any part of the school mixing whites and blacks. He feared that angry people, who wanted to keep blacks and whites separate, would hurt his family if Ruby went to the all-white school.

Ruby’s mom wanted her to go to the all-white school because she wanted her child to have a better education than she did and to have a good job when she grew up. Her mom had such a tough time in her life that she wanted Ruby to have an easier life. Ruby’s mom had to work hard even when she was pregnant. The day before Ruby was born, her mom had to carry ninety pounds of cotton on her back. She knew that if her child went to William Frantz School, Ruby would have a better life.

Ruby’s First Days of School

White people didn’t want blacks going to their schools because they thought blacks should not be treated as equals. They didn’t want blacks to have it as good as whites because they were a different color. Some white people threatened to poison Ruby and hurt her if she went to their school. Her dad even lost his job because his boss didn’t think that someone should be working for him if his black child was going to an all-white school.

Ruby’s mom got her six year-old Ruby into the all-white William Frantz School because Ruby passed a very hard test. When Ruby started first grade, U.S. marshals took her to and from school and protected her from the angry white people. On the first day of school in 1960, Ruby and her mom sat in the office. Some adults took their children to school but most others did not. Ruby saw some people dragging their white kids out of the classrooms because they didn’t want their kids going to the same school as a black kid. Ruby and her mom stayed in the office for the whole day of school. Many of the white parents and their kids were outside the school protesting. They were yelling and holding signs. The teachers still tried to teach the few students at school that day.

The second day Ruby, her mom, and her teacher sat in the classroom. No white parents would allow their children to be in the same classroom with Ruby. Her teacher, Mrs. Henry, started to teach and was very loving toward Ruby. She supported and helped Ruby through the difficult time. On the third day of school, her mom didn’t go with her. For the rest of the year, she was the only one in her class and she was taught on a whole different floor from all the other kids. The principal and many teachers also didn’t think Ruby should be taught with the white children. At first this didn’t bother Ruby, but after a while she wondered why she couldn’t be with the other children.

Handling the Pressure

PROBLEM WE ALL LIVE WITH
Image of Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell at biggallery.com/art/byimg/A0A5T000.htm, Hutchinson Turner, staff@biggallery.com, March 2000.  Email message.

After winter break, Ruby started to see a child psychiatrist. His name was Dr. Coles. Dr. Coles got interested in Ruby by seeing her go into school with the marshals surrounding her. He wondered how she could handle all of the pressure and wanted to help her. He was very supportive of Ruby. He thought it would be better for her to have someone outside of her family to talk to. She felt special because an important man was coming to visit her. His wife came, too, and she was a very caring person. She became good friends with Ruby’s mother.

After many years, Ruby graduated and became a travel agent. She was one of the first black Americans to go to an all-white school. This helped make it easier for other blacks to go to white schools, get a better education, and help improve relations between blacks and whites. She didn’t think it was much of an accomplishment until years later.

After her brother was killed in a drug-related shooting, she began to realize what she did in 1960 was very important for blacks. She then began to help other troubled black kids. Ruby started volunteer work at the William Frantz School. She helped strengthen the school by developing the Ruby Bridges Foundation. She travels to schools to explain the importance of reading, power of education, and integration of races.

Becoming Famous

Disney made a TV movie based on her experiences. A book about Ruby titled The Story of Ruby Bridges was published in 1995. When the book came out, Ruby’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Henry, saw it and contacted her. They were reunited on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” That was one of the greatest joys of Ruby’s life. She has also been in contact again with Dr. Coles, her old child psychiatrist. There was footage of Ruby in the television series, “Eyes on the Prize,” about the Civil Rights Movement. She also found out that she was painted in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Ruby finally reached a point where she felt her life had meaning. She feels that there was a reason for what she went through. She played an important part in bringing blacks and whites together. She did not know why she had to go through it, but now believes that it was meant to be that way. Little Ruby Bridges played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement.

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