In November 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the youngest of several African American students to integrate schools in the South and the only one at her elementary school.
Bridges was born on September 8, 1954, in Tylertown, Mississippi, moving to New Orleans, Louisiana with her family before she was school-aged. She attended kindergarten in a segregated school in 1959-1960.
After a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate in 1960, Bridges was admitted to first grade at the all-white William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans in November. She and her mother were escorted to school every day by federal marshals, as white crowds outside the school shouted threats and slurs. The parents of the other students withdrew their children from the school, and only one teacher agreed to teach her. The following year, several other African American students were also enrolled at the school and Bridges no longer needed to be escorted by federal marshals.
Bridges graduated from a desegregated high school. After graduation, became a travel agent, married, and was a full-time parent. Years later, she wrote two books about her experiences, “Through My Eyes” (1999) and “I Am Ruby Bridges” (2009). An activist for racial equality, Bridges established the Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999, which used educational initiatives to promote tolerance and respect among schoolchildren.
Bridges is the subject of Norman Rockwell’s 1964 painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” which celebrates her courage.
Michals, Debra (2015). Ruby Bridges. National Women's History Museum. www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ruby-bridges.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (n.d.). Ruby Bridges: American civil rights activist. In Britannica. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ruby-Bridges.