Days in 1960
Bridges is no professional author. Then, again, she doesn’t have
you tell a story as fascinating, as that Bridges tells in Through
My Eyes, a no-frills, less-is-more style is probably the best
way to go.
My Eyes, much like David Copperfield, starts in the
womb, with Ruby’s birth on September 8, 1954. At first, hers was
a simple life on a Mississippi farm in the loving fold of a poor
sharecropping family. But, at the age of four the Bridges moved
to the old seaport city of New Orleans where, two years later,
the “Civil Rights movement came knocking at the door and history
pushed in and swept me up in a whirlwind.”
many years after Brown v. Board of Education, schools finally
began to get desegregated even in the deepest South. Ruby was
one of the few African American children in New Orleans who passed
the qualifying test for attending a white school.
on November 14, 1960, a tiny, six-year old black child with a
gleaming white bow in her pigtails, surrounded by federal marshals,
walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her
school. She was the first African American child to do so. It
was Ruby. She
was making history. And it was scary.
book, well-illustrated by dramatic quotes and pictures from current
newspaper clippings, shows “some 150 whites clustered along the
sidewalk across William Frantz School, chanting obscenities and
throwing things”. A wall of policemen protects the tiny child
but only half-heartedly at best. “They were not exactly in favor
of integration themselves,” Bridges said. “You could never be
confident in their support.”
week long, screaming mothers rush into school, arguing loudly
while pointing at Ruby, taking their children out of William Frantz
in droves. One woman shouts daily, “I’m going to poison you! I’ll
find a way!”
though suffering horrible nightmares, perseveres. She has first
grade all to herself as no white child dares to attend class with
her. A few who try get ostracized right out of town. “I was not
even sure what all the commotion was all about,” said Bridges.
“Not until the end of the year, when some white children would
drop by once in a while. The light dawned on me one day when a
little boy refused to play with me. ‘My mama said not to because
you’re a nigger,’ he said.”
second grade, the school is integrated and no one says anything.
“But my teacher clearly did not like me,” said Bridges. “I guess,
in her eyes, this was somehow all my fault.”
now a lecturer nationwide, has established the Ruby Bridges Foundation
to help inner city schools. “I go back to William Frantz,” she
said. “The kids are being re-segregated again. There aren’t enough
resources for them. And why is that?” “As
a society, we must do something about education,” added Bridges.
“If kids of different races are to grow up to live and work together
in harmony, then they are going to have to begin at the beginning:
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