Ruby Bridges Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

This lesson will teach you about Ruby Bridges, the first African American to attend an all-white school in Louisiana. After reading this lesson, you will have a better understanding of what Ruby went through to be able to go to school.

Ruby Bridges and Segregation

Ruby Nell Bridges was born in Mississippi on September 8, 1954. Her grandparents and parents worked on a farm. Ruby's parents decided to move to New Orleans, Louisiana, to try to give their family a better life.

In the early 1950s, schools were segregated, meaning that what school you went to depended on the color of your skin. There were schools for white students and schools for African-American students. But all that was going to change!

In May of 1954, there was a big court case named Brown v. Board of Education. The Supreme Court decided that schools could no longer be segregated. In 1960, in New Orleans, a group of African-American children were given a really hard test to see whether they should be allowed to attend white schools. The test was so hard that only six students passed, with one of them being Ruby Bridges.

Once Ruby passed the test, it was decided that she could attend William Frantz School. She would be the only African American to attend that school, and the first African American to attend an all-white elementary in the South.

Ruby Bridges being escorted by US marshals on the steps of her school
Ruby Bridges

Attending School

Even though the court said that African-American students could go to white schools, the state of Louisiana tried to delay integration, or the combining of white and black students. Ruby started her new school in November 1960.

U.S. federal marshals were sent to protect the students. Four marshals were going to escort Ruby inside. When they got there, there was a huge crowd and the police had set up blockades to keep the people away from Ruby. The people, however, were screaming and throwing things. Ruby ended up spending the day in the principal's office because many parents had not allowed their children to come to school.

There was only one teacher who had agreed to teach Ruby, Barbara Henry. Ruby was the only student in Mrs. Henry's class, because the other parents would not allow their students to be in that class. Any time Ruby had to use the bathroom, a marshal had to take her to make sure no one hurt her. People were still protesting and some threatened to kill Ruby. During school, she was not allowed to go out to recess or to the cafeteria with the other students.

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