It may not seem like a big deal to go to school. Millions of kids in America do it every day. However, in 1960, one young girl’s trip to school became a historic moment in American history. Her name was Ruby Bridges.
Ruby was one of the first African American children to attend a previously white-only elementary school in Louisiana. Many southern restaurants, schools, businesses and other parts of the community were segregated at that time. So when Ruby, at the age of six, walked into school that day, she did so in the face of much opposition. In fact, her mom and U.S. marshals had to escort her past the shouts and threats from people who did not want her attending.
Ruby Bridges became another example of the power children have to stand up for what is right and help bring about change that makes our world a better place. In the decades since she first stepped into that New Orleans school, Ruby has become a civil rights icon and continued her work to create a more open and equal society. It all began when she was just a young girl trying to get an education.
Here are 10 facts about that ordinary little girl who rose to the challenge when the world needed her extraordinary courage.
- Ruby’s parents and grandparents were sharecroppers in Mississippi before her family moved to New Orleans in search of better opportunity.
- In New Orleans, Ruby shared a bedroom with her younger sister and two younger brothers.
- Ruby enjoyed playing jump rope, softball and climbing trees when she was a child.
- When Ruby arrived at the all-white school the crowds of people there to protest her the commotion made her think it was Mardis Gras. Mardis Gras is a loud celebration that takes place in New Orleans every year.
- One of the marshals who escorted Ruby into school that day said later, "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."
- Ruby really liked her teacher Mrs. Henry. They became good friends during that first year at the newly integrated school.
- Many people, both black and white, supported Ruby and her family. After her father lost his job due to backlash against Ruby, people sent in money to help the family.
- After graduating high school, Ruby worked as a travel agent for fifteen years.
- Her walk into the school that day was commemorated by American painter Norman Rockwell in his work titled: “The Problem We All Live With” which was even displayed at The White House art gallery.
- On July 15, 2011, Ruby met President Barack Obama at the White House. While viewing the Norman Rockwell painting, 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.”
Learn more about Ruby and her impact on the world when you visit The Power of Children® gallery at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.