Ruby Bridges is a civil rights activist from the United States, but where exactly did she grow up?
Ruby Bridges was born in Tylertown, Mississippi, where she lived until she was four years old. The family then relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she has spent much of her life.
Let’s explore the inspirational life of Ruby Bridges in more detail.
What was Ruby Bridges’ early life like?
Ruby Nell Bridges was born in Tylertown, Mississippi, on September 8, 1954. She is the eldest of five children born to her mother, Lucille Bridges and her father, Abon Bridges.
Bridges’ grandparents and parents worked as sharecroppers and were a low-income family.
Aged four, her family moved to the city of New Orleans where they hoped to find a better life with higher paid work. Her father found work as a gas station attendant and her mother had various night jobs to support the growing family.
While living with her family in New Orleans, Ruby shared her bedroom with three of her younger siblings. She liked to spend her time playing softball, jumprope, and climbing trees.
What did Ruby Bridges do for the civil rights movement?
Bridges was born during the Civil Rights Movement of the US, when citizens began demanding equal treatment of African-Americans.
Soon before her birth, the courts ruled during the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, that segregating schools was unconstitutional. This meant that previously white-only schools across the country were forced to allow black students to attend.
Despite the federal ruling, the southern US states were extremely reluctant for several years to allow black children to attend school with white children.
It became clear that local governments were not doing enough to ensure schools’ integration. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began campaigning to expedite the process of integration.
When she was six years old, Ruby Bridges attended an all-black kindergarten miles away from her home, even though there was an all-white kindergarten five blocks away.
During the same time, the NAACP was looking for volunteers to participate in a scheme to get New Orleans’ schools integrated, and her parents answered the request.
In order to qualify for the school, Bridges’ and other black students had to take an entrance exam, which was made particularly difficult in an attempt to keep the black students out. Bridges was one of only six children that passed the test in New Orleans.
She attended the previously all-white, William Frantz Elementary School, as the only black child.
The integration was not a smooth nor easy process. The six-year-old required a marshal escort through crowds of parents and onlookers, who would jeer and threaten the child.
One of the marshals recalls, “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.”
Parents boycotted the school, and all teachers but one refused to teach the young girl. Barbara Henry taught Ruby for the entire year. Since other parents refused to have the girl in the same class as their children, Ruby was taught alone.
What happened to Ruby Bridges later in life?
Bridges worked as a travel agent for 15 years, before retiring to stay at home with her four sons and husband, Malcolm Hall.
In 1995, Barbara Henry, who taught Ruby in kindergarten, made contact with her. The pair were reunited on The Oprah Winfrey Show soon after. Watch the heartwarming meeting in this video.
In 2011, then-President Barack Obama invited Bridges to the White House.
The pair were viewing a portrait of Bridges, painted by civil-rights activist and painter, Norman Rockwell, when Obama remarked, “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.”