Born 1954 in Mississippi
Ruby Bridges was born in 1954 in Mississippi in a small cabin. In 1957 her family moved to New Orleans because her father had lost his job picking crops. The schools in New Orleans were still segregated at that time, although laws had already been passed making segregation illegal.
In 1960, the year Ruby started first grade, she and four other African American girls were ordered to attend two different white elementary schools. Only Ruby was sent to the William Frantz Elementary School. On Rubyís first day of school, crowds of angry white citizens gathered outside the school to protest.
President Eisenhower ordered federal marshals to accompany Ruby to and from school each day. Each day she paused for a few moments before reaching the angry crowd to pray for them and once, having forgotten to do so beforehand, she stopped in the midst of the crowd to pray. Ruby was the only child to attend school at the William Frantz Elementary School for much of that year.
A touching painting done by Norman Rockwell entitled "The Problems We All Live With" depicts Rubyís determination making her way to school in the same way each day, surrounded by the federal marshals.
Ruby Bridges graduated from high school in New Orleans where her children attended school. When her children were young she supported them by working in a travel agency. Since 1995 Bridges has published two books and she lectures nationwide including schools in her visits. As a successful business woman, she created the Ruby Bridges Educational Foundation to help increase parental involvement in schools.
- The Story Of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles - Preschool and elementary age children will enjoy this historical account written in collaboration with Bridges herself.
- Ragtime Tumpie, by Alan Schroeder - A book about the childhood of another famous black woman, Josephine Baker, an entertainer during the 1930ís and 40ís. (amazon.com has it)
- The Ruby Bridges Foundation - This site has background information about Bridges, a schedule of her current lectures, and information about her books.
- PBS Online NewsHour - an interview with Ruby Bridges about her first grade year, includes a detail of Norman Rockwell's painting.