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Ruby Bridges Biography

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Birthday: September 8, 1954
Birthplace: Tylertown, Mississippi (US)

Ruby Bridges is famous for doing something most of us take for granted today: going to elementary school. But that simple act by one small girl played an important part in the Civil Rights Movement. Find out why.

Ruby was born on September 8, 1954 in Tylertown, Mississippi. A year later, her family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. At that time, people wanted to keep black people and white people 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.

Ruby Bridges BiographyRuby Bridges Biography

All that changed with Ruby, 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.

But 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 At 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 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.

U.S. Marshals escorted Ruby Bridges to and from school.U.S. Marshals escorted Ruby Bridges to and from school.

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.

A painting of Ruby Bridges’ first day of school as depicted by Norman RockwellA painting of Ruby Bridges’ first day of school as depicted by Norman Rockwell

Lasting Legacy

What Ruby did so bravely paved the way for other African Americans, making 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.

Have Your Say

Did you learn about Ruby Bridges in school? Let us know in the comments section below! 

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