Six-year-old Ruby Bridges Hall desegregates an elementary school

Ruby Bridges Hall in NPR:

The-problem-we-all-live-with-norman-rockwellThere were barricades and people shouting and policemen everywhere. As we walked through the crowd, I didn't see any faces. I guess that's because I wasn't very tall and I was surrounded by the marshals. People yelled and threw things. I could see the school building, and it looked bigger and nicer than my old school. When we climbed the high steps to the front door, there were policemen in uniforms at the top. The policemen at the door and the crowd behind us made me think this was an important place.All day long, white parents rushed into the office. They were upset. They were arguing and pointing at us. When they took their children to school that morning, the parents hadn't been sure whether William Frantz would be integrated that day or not. After my mother and I arrived, they ran into classrooms and dragged their children out of school. From behind the windows in the office, all I saw was confusion. I told myself that this must be the way it is in a big school.

That whole first day, my mother and I just sat and waited. We didn't talk to anybody. I remember watching a big, round clock on the wall. When it was 3:00 and time to go home, I was glad. When we left school that first day, the crowd outside was even bigger and louder than it had been in the morning. There were reporters everywhere. I guess the police couldn't keep them behind the barricades. It seemed to take us along time to get to the marshals' car. Later on I learned there had been protestors in front of the two integrated schools the whole day. They wanted to be sure white parents would boycott the school and not let their children attend. Groups of high school boys, joining the protestors, paraded up and down the street and sang new verses to old hymns. Their favorite was “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” in which they changed the chorus to “Glory, glory, segregation, the South will rise again.” Many of the boys carried signs and said awful things, but most of all I remember seeing a black doll in a coffin, which frightened me more than anything else.


On the second day, my mother and I drove to school with the marshals. The crowd outside the building was ready. Racists spat at us and shouted things like “Go home, nigger,” and “No niggers allowed here.” One woman screamed at me, “I'm going to poison you. I'll find a way.” She made the same threat every morning. I tried not to pay attention. When we finally got into the building, my new teacher was there to meet us. Her name was Mrs. Henry. Mrs. Henry took us into a classroom and said to have a seat. When I looked around, the room was empty. There were rows of desks, but no children. I thought we were too early, but Mrs. Henry said we were right on time. My mother sat down at the back of the room. I took a seat up front, and Mrs. Henry began to teach. I spent the whole first day with Mrs. Henry in the classroom. I wasn't allowed to have lunch in the cafeteria or go outside for recess, so we just stayed in our room. The marshals sat outside. If I had to go to the bathroom, the marshals walked me down the hall.

Picture: On July 15, 2011, Bridges met with President Barack Obama at the White House, and while viewing the Norman Rockwell painting of her on display he told her, “I think it's fair to say that if it hadn't been for you guys, I might not be here and we wouldn't be looking at this together.” On May 19, 2012, Bridges Hall received an Honorary Degree from Tulane University at the annual graduation ceremony at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

More here. (Note: One post throughout February will be dedicated to Black History Month.)