Kids find it easier to connect with kids. So let’s bring home Black History Month by learning about a little girl who helped end segregation in schools.
Today, our famous African-American is Ruby Bridges.
Ruby was born on September 8, 1954 in Mississippi. Her parents were sharecroppers there, but soon moved to New Orleans in search of a better life.
Ruby was born the same year that Brown vs the Board of Education outlawed segregation in the United States. In New Orleans, the school district was giving tests the year that Ruby was in kindergarten to determine if any black children could attend the white elementary schools. Ruby was one of the children chosen to sit the exam.
Ruby was chosen in 1960.
The Bridges received word in 1960 that she had passed the exam and would attend the all white school five blocks from her house. Previously, Ruby had been traveling several miles each day to go to the school zoned for African-American students.
Outrage was expected, and it was so forceful that little Ruby was escorted to school each morning by her mother and US Marshals.
Once at school, Ruby was still alone. Other students weren’t allowed to be in her classroom. Only one teacher, Barbara Henry from Boston, agreed to teach her.
People continued to be cruel.
One woman threatened to poison her. After that, Ruby was only allowed to eat food made at home. Another woman had a coffin with a black baby doll inside, meant to represent Ruby. But still, Ruby went to school.
Ruby’s family suffered, too. Her father, Abon, lost his job. Her mother, Lucille, was asked to stop shopping at her regular grocery store. Ruby’s grandparents lost the land that they had been sharecropping for decades.
Other members of the community supported Ruby and her family. Some parents started sending their children back to school. A neighbor offered Abon Bridges a job.
It took many years, and lots of struggle, for all schools to be desegregated.
One outstanding resource that I enjoyed in elementary school is the made for TV movie about Ruby’s brave integration of her New Orleans elementary school. It is available on YouTube right now.
In addition, Scholastic has leveled lessons and resources for free to help teachers reach students from K-8.
As we wrap up Black History Month, it’s important to reflect on the contributions to our collective history.
What are you taking away from Black History Month this year? How did you mark this month in your classroom?