“Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to fit in”: Ruby Bridges 60th anniversary and desegregation
With a cute bow in her hair and a bag of books, Ruby Bridges walked up – then down – the steps of William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, La.
The 6-year-old was tiny next to accompanying US Federal Marshals on November 14, 1960 – 60 years ago – when the federal government ordered the desegregation of Louisiana schools.
After he entered, the white students came out.
Around the school, police officers were posted to suppress any violence.
The demonstrators shouted at the little girl: “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.
And they called her ugly names.
Bridges was the first black student to attend the all-white school.
Three weeks after its first day, the Lake Charles American Press reported on December 4, 1960, that the protesters were still there. Every day. All day. They carried signs and sang.
On the same day that Bridges went to Frantz, three other black girls attended their first day of first grade at McDonough No. 19 Elementary School. White parents also took their children out of school at McDonough.
The landmark United States Supreme Court decision in Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka Kansas ended racial segregation in public schools in 1954.
But, the southern states resisted. In 1959, Ruby attended a separate kindergarten.
According to historyfemme.org“A year later, however, a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate. The school district created entrance exams for African American students to see if they could compete academically at the all-white school. Ruby and five other students passed the exam.
Her father did not want his daughter to leave because he feared for her safety. Her mother wanted her to have “the educational opportunities that her parents had been denied.”
Meanwhile, the school district dragged its feet, delaying her admission until November 14. Two of the other students decided not to leave their school at all; the other three were sent to all-white McDonough Elementary School.
Ruby and her mother were escorted by four Federal Marshals to school every day that year.
She passed crowds shouting vicious insults at her. Undeterred, she later said she was only afraid when she saw a woman holding a black doll in a coffin. She spent her first day in the principal’s office due to the chaos created when angry white parents pulled their children out of school.
Fervent segregationists are withdrawing their children for good. Barbara Henry, a white Boston native, was the only teacher willing to accept Ruby, and all year she was a class of one. Ruby ate lunch alone and sometimes played with her teacher at recess, but she never missed a day of school that year. “
Her family suffered. Her father lost his job. The stores wouldn’t sell to her mother, Lucille. His grandparents, sharecroppers, were evicted from the farm where they lived.
According to historyfemme.org, Ruby “graduated from a non-segregated high school, became a travel agent, married and had four sons. She was reunited with her first teacher, Henry, in the mid-1990s, and for a while, the couple spoke together Ruby later wrote about her early experiences in two books and received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award.
A long-time campaigner for racial equality, Ruby established the Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2000, she was named Honorary Deputy Marshal at a ceremony in Washington, DC “
In 1964, artist Normal Rockwell painted a picture of her going to school that was in Look magazine. The iconic painting is called “The Problem We All Live With”.
Yesterday, Scholastic announced a collaboration with Bridges for three more books on his experience.
On Tuesday November 10, Ruby’s mother Lucille is deceased.