Ruby Bridges: The first Black child to integrate a white school in the South

Herb Boyd | 10/10/2013, 11:16 a.m.
Of all the iconic children in the Civil Rights Movement, Ruby Nell Bridges is perhaps the least known. Much has ...
Ruby Bridges being escorted by U.S. marshals to all white elementary school

The atmosphere at the school was a grueling one for the young child, but Bridges, with the help of her teacher and her parents, endured the harassment, though after a while, the stress on her tiny body was becoming more evident with each day. Soon she began to suffer nightmares and for a while stopped eating lunch at school until Henry convinced her to eat with her. Much of her turmoil was documented by Dr. Robert Coles, a noted psychologist who, along with offering his counseling, later wrote a series of articles and a book about Bridges’ ordeal.

After a year or so, some of the white children began to slowly return to school, and things changed dramatically. There were no longer any U.S. marshals to escort her to class, and her classmates gradually began to accept the fact that she was there to stay. Bridges finished grade school at Frantz and later graduated from an integrated high school in the city. According to the website of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she started in 1999, she worked for American Express after studying travel and tourism at a Kansas City business school. In 1984, she married Malcolm Hall and later became a mother of four sons, all of whom attended Frantz elementary school.

In 2001, a film directed by the award-winning Euzhan Palcy was released by Disney and featured Chaz Monet as 6-year-old Bridges. The 96-minute production can be seen on YouTube.


  • Find out more: Psychologist Robert Coles wrote a children’s book on Ruby Bridges’ experiences, and other than the Ruby Bridges Foundation website, it is a good place to begin to learn more about this courageous young girl and the circumstances she endured and ultimately conquered.
  • Discussion: Was the situation Ruby Bridges encountered a good one for such a young child? What impact did it have on her later life and to what extent was her family affected by the chaos surrounding this breakthrough? These can be among the questions raised during the discussions.
  • Place in Context: Linda Brown was mentioned above; she was the child at the center of Brown v. Board of Education. How were their experiences similar and how did their pioneering efforts affect the national circumstances in the quest for equal educational opportunities?

This Week in Black History

  • Oct. 9, 1962: The East African nation of Uganda gains its independence from Great Britain.
  • Oct. 11, 1939: The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund pledges an all-out war to end discrimination. It was organized by famed attorney and teacher Charles Hamilton Houston.
  • Oct. 12, 1974: Frank L. Stanley Sr., founder and publisher of the Louisville Defender and noted civil rights activist, died in Louisville, Ky., at 68.