58 Years Ago Today.
This story is about a true American hero. Not all heroes wear capes, some have pigtails. This hero was six years old.
Ruby Bridges was still less than a year old when the United States Supreme Court decided Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, the landmark case ordering the end of racial segregation in American schools. Resistance to the ruling remained strong in the South. Part of that resistance included administering tests to black children for them to qualify to get into white schools. Ruby inconveniently passed.
Her father did not want her to go to the white school, fearing what would happen to his little girl. However, Ruby’s mother insisted, knowing this was an issue that was larger than them and her daughter. On November 14, 1960, under horrific threats and protests, Federal Marshals escorted the six year old to school. They would have to do so for the entire school year.
The hate directed at a six year old was incredible. She was screamed and cursed at and threatened with poison. A woman held up black baby doll in a coffin. When Ruby arrived at school, white parents pulled their children out. All the white teachers refused to teach her, save one. That teacher, Barbara Henry, would teach Ruby Bridges, one on one, alone, in their own classroom, all year.
The six year old never wavered. She did not flinch. As, Charles Burks, one of the Marshals escorting her said, “She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we’re all very very proud of her.”
On the second day one white parent broke the boycott of white parents holding their children out of school. Methodist minister, Lloyd Foreman, walked his 5-year-old daughter through an angry mob, with the calm declaration, “I simply want the privilege of taking my child to school.” Over the ensuing weeks the boycott slowly flittered away and white children returned to the school.
Thank you Ruby Bridges for making this nation a better place. The quiet example of your courage, and that of your family, is what true leadership is all about. We need more of that leadership today.