Imagine being 6 years old and facing a mob of angry parents on your way to school every day for one year.
Imagine being greeted by a woman who threatens to poison you just for wanting to get a better education.
That was what Ruby Bridges faced as she entered the first grade at William Frantz Elementary School. She was the first Black student – at 6 years old – to integrate into the all-White elementary school.
The courage that Ruby and her family displayed doesn’t get enough recognition. In fact, one parent in Florida attempted to erase her history through a bogus complaint.
A Parent’s Ridiculous Complaint
A parent at North Shore Elementary School filed a complaint to have the Disney movie Ruby Bridges removed from the school’s curriculum. The parent argued that the “slurs” in the movie would convince the students that “White people hate Black people.”
Fortunately, the parent’s complaint was not successful. The school’s committee voted to continue to use the movie in their curriculum.
As they should.
I remember watching the movie Ruby Bridges when I was in the 7th grade. I remember feeling scared for Ruby as she walked through a crowd full of adults who carried Black dolls in coffins.
I remember feeling bad for Ruby as she ate only potato chips because a woman threatened to poison her. She couldn’t believe that the food her mother cooked wasn’t poisoned and would only eat food that was bought from the store.
These are the stories that certain people want erased from history. And that is why we should continue to share these stories as much as possible.
Courage At A Young Age
When we think of history, we often think of the contributions that men and women make.
We don’t think about the children – especially Black children – whose acts of courage changed the course of history.
When Ruby decided to attend William Frantz Elementary School, she didn’t know how powerful her decision was. After all, she was one of 6 children who passed an entrance exam that determined whether she would attend the integrated school.
Out of the 6 children, Bridges was the only one who decided to go. Even though her parents were concerned, they wanted the best for their daughter.
From the first day of school, Ruby and her mother were escorted to the school by federal marshals. A mob of angry White men and women were at the front of the school to yell and intimidate Ruby.
Most of us in this situation would at least cry. But Ruby didn’t. She continued to walk into school day in and day out with her head held high.
Discrimination Inside Of The School
Unfortunately, the battle didn’t stop outside of the school.
White parents took their children out of the school once they found out Ruby would be attending. The teachers were no better.
With the exception of Ruby’s only teacher, Barbara Henry, the other teachers refused to interact with her.
As the school year continued, other White children returned to the school. Still, Ruby continued to be segregated. She would eat her lunch, have recess, and learn her lessons in one classroom with Mrs. Henry.
Can you imagine interacting with one person for the entire school year? Or being isolated from other children without fully understanding why?
These were the conditions that Ruby endured just to pursue a better education. And it affected her and her family in different ways.
The Cost Of A Greater Education
Even though Ruby didn’t show it, the crowd’s harsh words and threats affected her in several ways.
One particular threat that affected her psychologically was a woman’s threat to poison her. This woman threatened to poison her every morning.
As a result, Ruby only felt safe eating foods that her mother brought home from the store. Even worse, Ruby’s parents weren’t aware of the threat until a child psychiatrist shared the information with them.
And other members of Ruby’s family paid the price along with her. Ruby’s grandparents were sharecroppers in Mississippi and were turned off of their land.
Ruby’s father, who was a gas station attendant at the time, lost his job.
The family was temporarily banned from shopping at their favorite grocery store. The store owner didn’t want to face any backlash from being associated with the Bridges family.
Support From The Community
As trying as this time was for Ruby and her family, she found out that she wasn’t alone.
While there were neighbors who wanted to distance themselves from Ruby, there were neighbors who stepped up and offered support for her.
One local neighbor offered her father a new job. Other neighbors offered to watch Ruby and her siblings and kept watch for any protestors.
Some neighbors even followed the federal marshals’ cars and offered additional protection for Ruby on her way to school.
The NAACP and the relatives of Dr. Robert Coles, Ruby’s psychiatrist, also sent clothes and toys to Ruby and her siblings.
Why Ruby Bridges Will Never Be Censored
If a 6-year old little girl can endure all of this for a better education, I’m sure other children can handle learning the truth about her journey.
At such a young age, Ruby displayed courage in a situation that most adults – including myself – would find difficult to handle.
Ruby and her family endured suffering just to have a better life. Her bravery shouldn’t be forgotten, nor will it be.
No matter how much people try, they will never be able to erase history, and Ruby’s bravery will forever be a part of history.
Learn More About Ruby Bridges
If there’s one good thing that came from this bogus complaint, it’s that there are more people that are interested in learning about Ruby Bridges.
Today, Ruby is still a civil rights activist. She had a career as a travel agent, married, and is the mother of four sons.
She is still a strong advocate for education, and created the Ruby Bridges Foundation to fight for change in the education field.
The best way to learn more about Ruby and her life is from the woman herself! If you’re looking for the best books to share with your children, check out her books Through My Eyes, Ruby Bridges Goes To School: My True Story, This Is Your Time, and I Am Ruby Bridges: How One Six-Year Old Girl’s March to School Changed The World.
Last but certainly not least, if you haven’t watched the Disney movie Ruby Bridges, you can watch it on Disney +.
Share your thoughts about Ruby Bridges’ legacy in the comments below.