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Ruby Nell Bridges Hall is an American hero, Ruby Bridges was the first African American child to attend a white school. She was the first African American child to desegregate William Franz Elementary School. Ruby Bridges did not give up and continued to fight for themselves, as well as overcome torture and stress, as Africans were abused all over the South because of their skin. At the age of only six, Ruby with the help of her courage helped pave the way for rights in the Southern United States.
Life as a Struggle for Freedom
Ruby Nell Bridges was born on September 8, 1954, in Tylertown, Mississippi. Her mother, Lucille Bridges, worked in the fields because there was then an agricultural system in the American South during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, which only perpetuated racial inequality. Under this system, the landlord, often a former enslaver of African Americans, allowed tenants, often descending from formerly enslaved people, to cultivate the land in exchange for a share of the harvest. But restrictive laws and practices left tenants in debt and tied to land and landlords, just as they did when they were associated with plantations and slavery (Magoon et al. 3). At that time, the American South, despite abolishing slavery nearly a century prior, was still under transformation with many Southern whites not being able to accept the status of black people as well as the new reality.
Ruby Bridges' whole family was repressed through segregation her father Abon Bridges was fired after white visitors to the gas station where he worked threatened to relocate his business. As a result, Abon lost his job for five years. Around that time, Ruby’s parents volunteered in the integration program that attempted to erase the racial boundaries in the American South and stop racial segregation in the region. Ruby’s initial experience was far from being positive with teachers refusing to teach a black child. This was later coupled with Bridges' parents' divorce when she was 12. At this time, she found support from child psychologist Robert Coles, who saw the news about her and admired the courage of the first grader. That is one of the major reasons Robert agreed to include her in a study of black children who had desegregated public schools (Michals). It was largely due to the effort of Robert Coles and Ruby’s insistent cooperation the trend of segregation steadily moved away.
The Marshals of the United States were there to protect Ruby from the angry fellow students and even teachers who did not want her to go inside the school. During one such incident, the opponents of integration put a black doll in the coffin as if it was Ruby. Because of her experience, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That, however, did not break her spirit and, after graduating from desegregated high school, she worked as a travel agent for 15 years, later becoming an author and social rights activist (Magoon et al. 20). Ruby’s strong persistence, courage, and overall fine example have caught society’s attention, with social rights activism taking a strong and decisive phase during and after the 1960s.
It changed the future of education by allowing schools to accept students of all races. Her foundation created a school called Ruby Bridges, a school of social justice and community service. Ruby Bridges made a great contribution to the educational process, with a number of researchers making effort to prove segregation was more than unnecessary at the time. After she graduated and worked for some time, she stayed at home to take care of her four sons. Ruby Bridges has done quite impressive social work in her life that writing many books depicting her experiences as well as those of other black people in the American South during the latter half of the 20th century. These works are unique as they deliver information from the perspective of a child, a rather vulnerable part of the general population. Ruby managed to change the world and still serves as a speaker on the rights of African Americans in the American South and throughout the country (Michals). The problems of racial discrimination are still relevant in the United States, thus, Ruby Bridges never ceases her activism work, thoroughly researching and defending the rights of a large portion of the American population.
In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges went to a white school, changing the history of the entire educational process in the United States. This is the story of an extraordinary little girl who became the first black person to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Ruby's deed is a message of tolerance and mutual respect that is very relevant today. Equal access to quality education for all children remains an unfinished business around the world, and therefore an urgent topic for discussion. All countries must wake up and stop the unjust treatment of poor children and children of different nationalities.
Magoon, Kekla et al. She Persisted: Ruby Bridges. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2021.
Michals, Debra. "Ruby Bridges". National Women's History Museum, 2015, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ruby-bridges.
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