‘You just have to be strong and pray’: Ruby Bridges’ mother recalls integrating N.O. schools

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NEW ORLEANS -- It's been almost 60 years since 6-year-old Ruby Bridges arrived at William Frantz School in New Orleans as the first African American child to enter a white school in the South.

No matter how much time passes, her mother, Lucille Bridges, will remember the hell of integration like it was yesterday.

February is Black History Month, a month-long celebration remembering the important contributions that African Americans have made in our nation's history.

In honor of Black History Month, News with a Twist is featuring the people and places of New Orleans and beyond that helped to shape our community.

Today, it's the story of Ruby Bridges.

"When we were raised up in Mississippi on a farm, people didn't allow us to go to school, so I just prayed and said if I ever got married and had children, I wanted it better for my kids," Lucille Bridges recalled in an interview with News with a Twist.

Ruby was one of several African-American children who were given an opportunity to take a written test that would determine whether she could attend the all-white school that was just blocks from her home.

The test was reportedly "especially difficult" as a means to stop New Orleans from having to integrate, but Ruby was one of a half-dozen black children who passed the test.

The first two days of school, Lucille Bridges accompanied her daughter to campus.

"People were everywhere, hollering and screaming," she said. "They told me one of the city policeman, they had to arrest him, because he pulled his gun, and they said quite naturally to kill the mother because they knew had they killed the mother, me, I wouldn't have let her go to school."

The first time they walked up to the school, two police officers told them "you cannot come in." But the federal Marshal replied, "The president said we can."

"When they said that, they just stepped back and we went on in the school," Lucille Bridges said. "If it wasn't for God, none of it would have happened, but you just have to be strong and pray."