November 14, 1960. A small six-year-old chip named Ruby Bridges marks forever the history of the United States, in a very upsetting way. She became the symbol of the fight against racism, becoming the first black student to join a white school in Louisiana.
Ruby Bridges was integrated into a white school following the call of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NACCP), a militant association for the rights of blacks. Six years earlier, the US Supreme Court had declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The NACCP therefore asked Afro-American parents to let their children integrate this new school system.
Ruby’s father was worried and reluctant, but his mother wanted to make things happen. She succeeded in persuading her husband to teach Ruby at William Frantz Elementary School.
To prevent him from being lynched, the court ordered four federal Marshall to escort him, as the local police refused to do so. Ruby Bridges never forgot her first day of school. She did not understand this pure hatred and says:
“From the car I could see the crowd, but since I was living in New Orleans, I thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people near the school. They threw things at me and shouted at me. “
Furious to see a little black, parents picked up their children at school and all the teachers immediately left the establishment, with the exception of Barbara Henry. It is this courageous teacher who will teach Ruby Bridges throughout the school year, face to face, since no parent will want her child to be in the same class as a negress.
Ruby Bridges, six years old, faced threats of kidnapping, torture and poisoning. One day she was “greeted” by a woman with a black doll in a wooden coffin. Soon she began to show signs of stress, having nightmares at night and had to consult a psychologist several times. In spite of all the life went on, she finished her studies years later and then became a travel agent and mother of family.
In 1999, Ruby Bridges created a foundation that promotes the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of all differences. Through education and inspiration, the foundation seeks to end racism and prejudice. As she says so well, “racism is a growing disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”