Life-long Learning Social-Justice

BHM Series #18: Ruby Bridges, Civil Rights Hero

This month, I am especially excited to learn more about the African-Americans who have made our country great. In my search for knowledge, I am coming across some great resources that I’d like to share with you!

(This is the sixth in a series of posts devoted to sharing the rich history of African-Americans. To see more posts in this series, click here.)

Ruby Bridges, a Civil Rights Hero

At six years old, Ruby Bridges was the first black child to attend a formerly all-white New Orleans School. In order to protect her from angry mobs of white people, she had to be escorted to and from school each day by U.S. Marshals.

Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, “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 very proud of her.”[1]

Ruby serves as a role model for courage, forgiveness, and doing what’s right.

At six years old, Ruby Bridges was escorted to school by U.S. Marshals to and from school to protect her from angry mobs during forced integration of New Orleans schools during the 1960’s

Reading The Story Of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles is a great way to talk with young children about bias and how even young people can be a part of history.

The Story of Ruby Bridges is Also One About Community

The Ruby Bridges story is a great way to talk about what it means to be an ally. What was it like for Ruby’s family and neighbors? How did others in the community respond? This excerpt from Wikipedia explains:

The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary: her father lost his job, the grocery store the family shopped at would no longer let them shop there, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. She has 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, a neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people babysat, watched the house as protectors, and walked behind the federal marshals’ car on the trips to school.[2][3]

Ruby Bridges meets with marshal who escorted her to school

Ruby Bridges meets with marshal who escorted her to school.


Last year, Bridges was reunited with met with Charles Burks who is one of the four marshals who escorted her past angry crowds each day. Here’s what Burks had to say about the experience:

Burks said escorting Bridges to school was a highlight of his life, adding that he supported the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that struck down segregation in public schools…

“It was a privilege to be able to do what I did, even though it was one of my duties. Everybody says it was just another job to do, but it was a wonderful job,” said Burks, who lives in Logansport, Ind.

Questions to think about:

  • How do you think it would feel to be the only child in class? Would you have been scared to go to school if you were Ruby?
  • If you were a teacher or neighbor during the time of this story, how could you have shown support for Ruby and her family?
  • If you were a child Ruby’s age during this time, how could you have shown support for Ruby and her family?
  • Do you see examples today of people getting excluded because of their social or ethnic group that they belong to (e.g. skin color, language, ethnicity, gender)?
  • What can you do in your neighborhood, classroom or school to create a more equitable world?

1. Susannah Abbey. Freedom Hero: Ruby Bridges
2. Charlayne Hunter-Gault. “A Class of One: A Conversation with Ruby Bridges Hall,” Online NewsHour, February 18, 1997
10. Bridges Hall, Guideposts p. 5.

Related Reads: Click here to view more posts in this series.

Who inspires you?  Help me reach my goal of 28 posts and email me or post your great resources in the comments below.

My homework assignment: Inspired by this hilarious (and to the point)SNL skit28 Reasons to Hug a Black Man, I have decided to write 28 posts highlighting African-American culture and heritage (roughly one for each day of the month)… (See the video and read more about my reasons for writing this series here.)

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