Ruby Bridges First Day of School Changed History

Betti Halsell in LA Sentinal:

The footprints of a child are small but on November 14, 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges walked with purpose as she became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South. This venture leads to the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement and created a pathway for further integration across the southern parts of the U.S.

Before Ruby could crawl, the monumental court ruling in Brown V. Board of Education case (1954) had transpired in favor of ending segregation in public schools. There was resistance along the southern lines. Although the Supreme Court deemed segregation in public schooling was unconstitutional, integration was not being practiced in the South. In 1959, Ruby Bridges started her educational journey at a segregated kindergarten in New Orleans. A year later, the federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate its public institutions of education. The school district created an entrance exam, to test if African American students were capable to withstand the same level of academics as their White counterparts. Along with five other Black students, Ruby passed the test.

Like all concerned parents, Abon and Lucille Bridges were apprehensive about the act of moving their small child into an all-White school. With the spirit of aggression and lack of understanding in the air, little Ruby’s safety was of utmost importance. Her well-being was the main reason for the hesitance in Abon’s mind. It was Ruby’s mother who favored the move to take place on the premise that her child will receive an education and opportunities that were once denied to her before.

The decision was made, but there was plenty of red tape from the school district that yielded  the steps towards change. At last, early Monday morning, Ruby, alongside her mother, took her first steps into victory over segregation. This was no ordinary first day of school; they were met with great adversity. Mobs of people chanted and shouted at Ruby and her mother. The only things between the rage of the people and the young girl were barricades clearing the pathway and the cops that escorted her in and surrounded the building. After Ruby entered William Frantz Elementary School, mothers of the other children barged in and ripped their children out from their classes; over 500 children walked out that day. For the first year, it was just a class of one. Ruby alone was taught by the only teacher willing, Mrs. Barbara Henry. Ruby had perfect attendance that year.

More here. (Note: Throughout February, at least one post will honor The Black History Month. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote.” Readers are encouraged to send in their suggestions)