Following the 1954 Brown v Board of Education ruling that desegregated public schools in the U.S., six years later little Miss Ruby Bridges (1960) would be the first and only brave student to integrate William Frantz Public School in New Orleans. Accompanied by federal marshals, Bridges began first grade on November 14, 1960. She, alone, was taught by Mrs. Henry. Bridges had no classmates. Bridges met no new friends. Being the only black girl in the school, all who she came in contact with were the federal marshals who escorted her from her home to school everyday, the upset protesters who rambunctiously voiced their opposition to integration, and Mrs. Henry who developed a love for her as if she was one of her own. She soon began to meet with a child psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Coles, on a weekly basis. He later went on to write a children’s book about her.
Bridges returned to William Franz Public school in 1962 for second grade.
This time around, there were no marshals to escort her and no Mrs. Henry. But there were plenty of kids around, black kids too. A segregated William Franz school was a thing of the past.
At such a tender age, Ruby Bridges made history. Afraid and alienated-Bridges courageously went to school everyday without missing a beat. And everyday she spoke this prayer while in the car on her way (and once even as she walked through the angry mob of people):
“[God] please be with me…and be with those people too. Forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing.”
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“Each and everyone of us is born with a clean heart. Our babies know nothing about hate or racism. But soon they begin to learn — and only from us. We keep racism alive. We pass it on to our children. We owe it to our children to help them keep their clean start.”
“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and start a trail.”
– Ruby Bridges
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To read more about Ruby Bridges’ story, visit her website here.