Desegregation Icon, Ruby Bridges, Releases Children’s Book

From the woman who made history as the first Black student at an all-white elementary school in Louisiana comes a children’s book on racism as seen from a young girl’s eyes.

Young Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to attend William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, New Orleans was accompanied by U.S. Marshalls as she goes to and leave from school at the height of U.S. desegregation. Photo courtesy of the Department of Justice.

Ruby Bridges, the six years old who made history by becoming one of the first African American student to attend an elementary school in Louisiana, New Orleans at the height of desegregation released of her book titled “I Am Ruby Bridges.”

The book tells the tale of her historic moment from the eyes of her childhood self and “how one six-year-old girl’s march to school changed the world.”

Book cover for “I Am Ruby Bridges.”

“It’s a true reflection of what happened through my own eyes,” Bridges said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I’ve been very, very fortunate because of the way I tell my story that my babies come in all shapes and colors, and my books are bestsellers, and maybe banned in schools … But I think parents really want to get past our racial differences. They’re going to seek out those books.”

The momentous Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that outlawed racial segregation in public schools coincided the same year Bridges was born. Southern states initially resisted the desegregation; however, Louisiana was eventually compelled to integrate. To determine if African American pupils could compete academically at an all-white school, the school district developed admission examinations for them. Bridges and five other pupils succeeded on the test. “That shaped me into a person that is not prejudiced at all. And I feel like that little girl is still inside of me, and that’s it’s my calling to make sure kids understand that you can’t look at someone and judge them,” Bridges said.

Four federal marshals took the 6-year-old Bridges and her mother to school each day that year. “It really looks like Mardi Gras to me, but they aren’t throwing any beads. What’s Mardi Gras without beads?” Bridges writes in her book, remembering the hostile crowd that greeted her first day in school. She moved through groups who hurled foul language at her. A white woman even went as far as carrying a Black baby doll inside a coffin to protest the desegregation. Only one teacher agreed to teach Bridges — Barbara Henry, a white Boston resident.


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