Last updated: July 28, 2020
Ruby Nell Bridges Hall is an American Hero. She was the first African American child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School. At six years old, Ruby's bravery helped pave the way for Civil Rights action in the American South.
Ruby was born on September 8, 1954 to Abon and Lucille Bridges in Tylertown, Mississippi. She was the eldest of five children. When Ruby was 2, the family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in search of better opportunities.
Though the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling passed in 1954, southern states resisted integration. Ruby first attended a segregated kindergarten in 1959. The following year a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate. Ruby's school district created entrance exams for African American students. These exams determined whether African American students could compete academically at an all-white school. Ruby and five other students passed the test. Two students decided to stay at their school. The others, including Ruby, were sent to the all-white McDonough Elementary School.
On November 14, Ruby and her mother were escorted into the William Frantz Elementary School by four federal marshalls. This escort continued all year. Despite the racial slurs, screaming crowds, and only having one teacher willing to accept her, Ruby did not miss a day of school.
The community was torn. Some families supported her bravery. Some northerners sent money to aid her family. Others protested. The entire family suffered for their bravery. Abon Bridges lost his job. Grocery stores refused to sell to Lucille. Her grandparents were evicted from the farm where they had sharecropped for a quarter-century.
Eventually, other African American students enrolled. Ruby went on to graduate from a desegregated highschool, became a travel agent, married, and had four sons. Today, Ruby continues to be a civil rights activist. She established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to help promote tolerance and create change through education.
Ruby Bridges is associated with the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in New Orleans, Louisiana.