This Day in History: 6-year-old Ruby Bridges integrates New Orleans public schools

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NEW ORLEANS -- When 6-year-old Ruby Bridges arrived at William Frantz School on North Galvez Street on November 14, 1960, there were so many people lined up to watch her and throw things at her, she thought it was a Mardi Gras celebration.

It was the first time that an African-American child would be allowed to go to a white school in the American South, and it was a full six years after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Brown v. Board of Education desegregated schools.

According to, 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.

On that fateful day, with her mother and federal agents by her side, Ruby entered William Frantz School and was immediately brought to the principal's office, where she spent her whole first day.

It didn't get much better from there:

Only one teacher, Barbara Henry, agreed to teach Ruby. She was from Boston and a new teacher to the school. "Mrs. Henry," as Ruby would call her even as an adult, greeted her with open arms. Ruby was the only student in Henry's class, because parents pulled or threatened to pull their children from Ruby's class and send them to other schools ...

She spent her entire day, every day, in Mrs. Henry's classroom, not allowed to go to the cafeteria or out to recess to be with other students in the school. When she had to go to the restroom, the federal marshals walked her down the hall. Several years later, federal marshal Charles Burks, one of her escorts, commented with some pride that Ruby showed a lot of courage. She never cried or whimpered, Burks said, "She just marched along like a little soldier."

Ruby finished school in New Orleans and went on to business school in Kansas City, later working as a world travel agent before marrying her husband in 1984 and transitioning to a full-time mother of four children.

Later, she worked as a volunteer at William Frantz School where she attended as a child.

In 1999, she formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation in New Orleans to further champion equal rights in public education.

Just last night (Monday, November 13), Ruby was honored alongside journalist Katie Couric, actress Laverne Cox, Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, and attorney Sarah Weddington as one of Glamour Magazine's Women of the Year.

BROOKLYN, NY - NOVEMBER 13: Ruby Bridges, Katie Couric, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Sarah Weddington pose backstage at Glamour's 2017 Women of The Year Awards at Kings Theatre on November 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Glamour)


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