March 05, 2018

Women's History Month: Ruby Bridges


Ruby Nell Bridges Hall (born September 8, 1954) is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.

Ruby Bridges grew up on the farm that her parents and grandparents sharecropped in MississippiShe came into the public view at age 6, in 1960. Her parents responded to a request from the NAACP and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans school system. They was so much difficulty surrounding  her admission that a child psychiatristRobert Coles, volunteered to provide counseling to Bridges during her first year. The Bridges family also suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary. Her father lost his job, the grocery shop would no longer let them shop there.  Her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. However, it was noted that many others in the community, both black and white, showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests and boycott.  A neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people walked in support behind the federal marshals' car on the trips to school.

Ruby Bridges Hall, lives in New Orleans with her husband, Malcolm Hall. They have four sons. She is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she formed in 1999 to promote "the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences". Describing the mission of the group, she says, "racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”

In October 2006, the Alameda Unified School District in California dedicated a new elementary school to Ruby Bridges, and issued a proclamation in her honor, and in November that year she was honored in the Anti-Defamation League's Concert Against Hate. On July 15, 2011, Bridges met with President Barack Obama at the White House, and while viewing the Norman Rockwell painting 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.”  In 2014, a statue of Bridges was unveiled in the courtyard of William Frantz Elementary School.

For more information:

A teacher reading: Ruby Bridges Goes To School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges