Monday, 19 October 2015

Black History Month October 2015 - Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges is a fantastic example of resilience, strength and tenacity. Her story is inspirational to Black people worldwide.

Born Ruby Nell Bridges on September 8th 1954 to parents Abon and Lucille Bridges, Ruby is famous for being the first Black child to attend an all-white elementary school.

Her early years were spent on a farm in Mississippi where her parents and grandparents sharecropped the land, however motivated by the desire for a better life for their children, the Bridges family moved to New Orleans.  Segregation was still heavily entrenched in southern America but in a radical step towards civil rights for Black people, a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1954 ordered the desegregation of public schools.  However, it is important to recognise there was no timeline specified for the implementation of these changes.

In 1960 Ruby's parents were approached by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) to sit a test that would determine her ability to attend and study at an all-white school. Out of numerous African-American children, Ruby was one of six to pass this test and it was decided she would become a student at William Frantz Elementary. Conscious of the public backlash, US marshals were assigned to escort Ruby to and from school. The ramifications were unimaginable! Mobs of angry, outraged parents and townspeople heckled, and spat at Ruby. They threatened to poison and kill her. Ostracised for her colour at just 6 years old!  Parents refused to send their children to school in protest and teachers refused to teach.  Only one new teacher, Mrs Barbara Henry from Boston supported Ruby, who was her only student for the entire year!  She was sensitive to Ruby's emotional and educational needs. In order to keep Ruby safe, she was not allowed to eat lunch with the other children nor enjoy playtime with them. The effects rippled beyond school. Ruby's father lost his job, the family were not allowed to visit shops local to their home and their neighbours were terrorised. Yet in the face of this adversity, Ruby and her family continued, with what was to become, one of the most notorious steps towards civil liberty for Black people.  The strength they displayed drawn from a tight family unit and firm Christian beliefs!
Ruby continued her education into her adult years and went on to study Travel and Tourism at the Kansas City Business School.  In 1999, Ruby established the 'Ruby Bridges Foundation' which seeks to disseminate prejudice through education. The motto for the foundation is "We believe racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it." Still a zealous and influential activist today, Ruby's work for equal rights remains both influential and inspirational!  Her book 'Through My Eyes' continues to engage readers of every background worldwide and is a staple in relating dark elements in Black history.


  1. Great post! I will aim to purchase copies of 'Through My Eyes' for the Reading for Pleasure collection.

  2. There is now a copy of "Through My Eyes" available in the Polhill Library. See,