November 22, 2019

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*insert title here* Picture this: you are a six-year-old girl ready to attend a new school for the first time. You get out of the car, only to find a large crowd of angry protesters shouting harsh insults and throwing objects at you. This is what Ruby Bridges had to go through almost every day for an entire school year. In 1960, she became known for being the first African-American child to integrate into an all-white school in the southern United States. Being an intelligent but innocent girl at the time, Bridges did not fully understand exactly what the impact was that she was making, nor did she know exactly why there were so many people so angry with her because of her attendance at the school. Despite the racism and anger she was forced to face at a young age, Ruby Bridges persisted and became the first African-American child to attend an all-white school in the American South, and her bravery helped spread the acceptance of racial diversity across America. All her life, Ruby Bridges has been made to overcome many difficult obstacles, but her success has made her an iconic figure in the civil rights movement. On September 8th, 1954, Bridges was born in Tylertown, Mississippi. When she was only four, Bridges’ father decided to move the family to New Orleans, where Ruby started out by going to an all-black kindergarten. Two years later, a test was given out to all young African-American students in New Orleans, and Ruby, being very smart, was one of only six children to pass. This allowed her to attend one of the many all-white schools in New Orleans. She was the only one of the African-American children to go to William Frantz Elementary, which she chose because it was near her home. As Bridges entered the school on November 14, 1960, with four U.S. Marshals at her side, infuriated crowds of people who had gathered at the school to protest stood angrily shouting and throwing objects. At the time, “Ruby, in her innocence, first believed it was like a Mardi Gras celebration” (Ruby Bridges Biography). On her first day, she was the only student at school (all the others had withdrawn in protest or protection) and ended up having to sit in the principal’s office all day so that she would be protected from the enraged crowds. But eventually, the protests and tension died down. By the time her first grade year was over, Bridges’ school life became much easier, and she no longer had to be escorted by federal marshals. Because of Bridges’ bold choice to attend William Frantz School, emigration became much more universally accepted and other African-American students were able to follow in her footsteps. As Bridges grew older, she continued to attend integrated schools until she graduated from high school. After that, she married Malcolm Hall and had four sons. She later took in the four daughters of her brother, who had passed away, and raised them as if they were her own children. In 1999, Bridges established the Ruby Bridges foundation, which was created to help increase the acceptance of diversity in schools.When Ruby was born, the United States was in the chaotic era of the civil rights movement. Four months before that, the Supreme Court had passed a law stating that segregated schools were unconstitutional and that schools were no longer allowed to prevent non-white children from enrolling. However, racism was still everywhere, especially for Ruby’s family. Her father lost his job, and the grocery store where they usually shopped banned them. Despite the fact that non-white children were finally allowed to attend all-white schools, not much changed, especially not for Ruby’s family in New Orleans. All-schools continued to only contain white children, and African American continued to go to their designated schools. Once Bridges finally did attend an all-white school, however, racism was still everywhere, especially for Ruby’s family. Her father lost his job, and the grocery store where they usually shopped banned them. On Ruby’s first day at William Frantz Elementary, all of the white children who would normally attend were made by their parents to stay home from school as an act of boycotting and so they would be protected from the angry mobs of protesters. There was no teaching held that day. “Several times she was confronted with blatant racism in full view of her federal escorts. On her second day of school, a woman threatened to poison her. After this, the federal marshals allowed her to only eat food from home. On another day, she was “greeted” by a woman displaying a black doll in a wooden coffin” (Ruby Bridges biography). Eventually, the rough events started to affect Bridges. She became stressed because of all the pressure that she had endured. She ended up seeing a child psychologist who volunteered to help, and she found him to be very helpful and caring. Unfortunately, it would take more than Bridges’ act of bravery to solve the problems of segregation. The racism, of course, was very much alive and a heavy burden to Bridges. However, she continued to power through and attend William Frantz Elementary even after her difficult first few days. Staying at William Frantz among all of the hostility was difficult for Bridges, but she was able to cope with the help of her teacher, Barbara Henry. Bridges and Henry “worked together in an otherwise vacant classroom for an entire year. (“Ruby Bridges | American civil rights activist”)” For her first year, the only friends she had made were the marshals who escorted her to school, her teacher, and her psychologist. By next year, though, more children were in Ruby’s class and she began to become acquainted with many of them (Dewey). Although Ruby’s most famous acts happened when she was a child, she also fought for civil rights later in her life. In 1999, Ruby established the Ruby Bridges foundation in New Orleans. “Ruby launched her foundation to promote the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of differences. Through education and inspiration, the foundation seeks to end racism and prejudice. As its motto goes, “Racism is a grown-up disease, and we must stop using our children to spread it” (“Ruby Bridges Biography”). The bravery and persistence of six-year-old Ruby Bridges paved a path that marked a huge step in the civil rights movement. At first, her acceptance was extremely limited. However, by the time Bridges’ second year at William Frantz Elementary School started, the protesters were gone, the U.S. marshals no longer had to escort her to school, and more African-American students had enrolled. Ruby’s persistence and bravery paved a path that allowed many African-American children after her to integrate into white schools like she did and begin the social changes of the civil rights movement (“Ruby Bridges | American civil rights activist”). Thanks to Bridges’ bravery, many African-American children were also able to emigrate like she did and begin the social changes of the civil rights movement. Her bold choices even inspired famous artist Norman Rockwell to paint a picture of her being escorted to school by the Marshals. Rockwell called the painting The Problem We All Live With. In 2011, over fifty years later, president Barack Obama had it hung outside the Oval Office (Dewey). In 1993, long after she had graduated, Ruby returned to New Orleans to send her brother’s children (who she had taken in as her own after her brother was murdered in a drug deal) to William Frantz, which by then had become an all-black school because of its historical significance in the civil rights movement. Ruby’s legacy is still being appreciated to this day. In 2007, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis revealed an attraction that exhibited her life along with those of other famous children, including Ryan White and Anne Frank. To this day, the Ruby Bridges Foundation is helping to encourage the respect and acceptance of diversity and differences and encouraging parents to become more involved in their children’s’ education (“Ruby Bridges Biography”). In 2014, a statue of Ruby Bridges was built outside of William Frantz to commemorate her bravery (“Biography for Kids: Ruby Bridges”). In conclusion, Ruby Bridges is one of the most influential people of the American civil rights movement. 

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