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Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
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Entertainment
Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Publication: Historical Archives.
Posted by
760a631d0dea2ae92cb6e9f7b157b927
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Bridging the Gap

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Where:
New Orleans, Louisiana
When:
1960
Summary:
Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school, looks understandably hesitant to descend the steps on the way to class.
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Bridging the Gap


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  Where:
New Orleans, Louisiana

  When:
1960

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Next Photo
or read more about below

“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail. When you start a new trail equipped with courage, strength, and conviction, the only thing that can stop you is you.” Born in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1950s, Ruby Bridges had no idea just how big of a role she would play in history. When she was only five years old, Ruby became the first black child to attend the previously all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. After passing the school’s entrance exam, she was admitted to the school and, because of the times, was escorted by three federal marshals during her first year. She was threatened each morning on her walk to school but nothing could stop the little girl from getting the best education possible. In return, she made history and even inspired Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, The Problem We All Live With. So, what’s her story and where is she today?

Setting the Scene: Ruby’s Early Life

The oldest of five children born to Abon and Lucille Bridges, Ruby Nell Bridges Hall came into this world on September 8, 1955, in Tylertown, Mississippi. As the oldest in her family, she spent most of her time taking care of her brothers and sisters as the family relocated from Mississippi to New Orleans, Louisiana. During this time, the Civil Rights Movement was just beginning but little did the young Bridges know just how much she would play a part in desegregation.

The iconic Brown v. Board of Education court case was decided just eight months after Ruby’s birth and declared the process of segregating schools for black and white children as unconstitutional. Although the ruling was finalized in 1954, southern states like Louisiana were resistant to the decision and drug their feet as the state governments delayed the process throughout the south. One such incident occurred in 1957 when federal troops were stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas to combat the outbreak of violence that followed the ruling. In Ruby’s hometown of New Orleans, the local school and the Orleans Parish School Board administered an extremely difficult entrance exam to prevent the black children from passing.

Ruby’s schooling started in 1959 at a segregated kindergarten but in just a few months everything changed when she passed the entrance exam for the all-white William Frantz Elementary School. Ruby was only one of six children to pass the exam, but two other children remained at their existing school and the others transferred to the neighboring McDonogh No. 19. Ruby was the only black student to enter William Frantz Elementary School.

On her first day at school, Ruby and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals who escorted Ruby throughout the school year so that her mother could tend to her other children. At the time, Ruby’s father feared the transition, but her mother was widely supportive of giving her daughter a better education. “Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras,” Ruby recalled of her first day.

“They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.” One of the federal marshals, United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks, recalled Ruby’s bravery saying, “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier and we’re all very proud of her.” That bravery is captured in the iconic picture of Ruby alongside the marshals. The event and ruling were also commemorated by Norman Rockwell in his painting, The Problem We All Live With, which was published in Look magazine on January 14, 1964.

Ruby’s Legacy

In the days following her entrance into William Frantz Elementary School, Ruby settled in despite the angry mob that gathered outside the school each morning. Often threatened by parents and her classmates, Ruby’s decision to enter the school took a toll on the family as her father lost his job and local businesses like the grocery store refused to serve them. However, Ruby and her family also received great support from many in the community as white neighbors lent a hand in helping her father find work and others donated beautiful clothes for her to wear to school.

In the decades since her iconic walk as the first African American child to desegregate the William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, Ruby has taken her role in history very seriously. She graduated from a desegregated high school and worked as a travel agent for 15 years before settling down and starting a family. She also started the Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences.”

Today, the 64-year-old is remembered for her incredible contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Her story was shared in the 1998 television film Ruby Bridges and she has a permanent exhibit at the Children’s Musician of Indianapolis called “The Power of Children: Making a Difference.” In 2011, she was invited to the White House where she met with President Barack Obama to view the Rockwell painting. “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,” President Obama said.

With a statue of her likeness now sitting in the courtyard of William Frantz Elementary School, Ruby’s role in the Civil Rights Movement is undeniable. She’s recounted her story in books like Through My Eyes (1999) and Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (2009) where she shares that iconic day and its meaning after all these years. Today, her motto is to combat racism and hate. “My message is really that racism has no place in the hearts and minds of our children,” she says. “Each and every one 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.”