As a six-year-old first grader in New Orleans in 1960, Ruby Bridges became the first black student to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.
All day long, angry white parents removed their children from the school as Ruby and her mother waited in the front office. At the end of the first school day, the crowd outside of William Frantz was larger and louder than it had been that morning as news of Ruby’s attendance spread.
The next day, the White Citizens’ Council held a meeting in the Municipal Auditorium attended by over 5,000 people. The leaders of the meeting called for protests and boycotts to resist integration. On November 16th, crowds marched to the school board building shouting, “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.”
Every morning a group of forty or more women, known as the “cheerleaders”, shouted obscene, racist threats at Ruby as she entered Frantz Elementary. Ruby received instruction in isolation from her teacher, Mrs. Barbara Henry. Even to use the restroom, she had to be escorted by the marshals, and Ruby ate lunch alone in the classroom every day.
Today, she is the founder of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which seeks to end racism and prejudice and promote tolerance, respect and appreciation for all differences.
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