“Ruby's family moved from a very poor town in Mississippi to New Orleans. Her father was a janitor and her mother cleaned floors at the bank every night. They were hardworking and religious-- attending church every Sunday. In New Orleans, schools were segregated, but in 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of four black girls selected to go to all white elementary schools. Three of the girls were able to go together to school, but Ruby was sent alone to first grade in William Frantz Elementary School alone.
On Ruby's first day, she was greeted by mobs of people, holding signs, and saying very hateful things to Ruby. The police did not help, however, Ruby was escorted by federal marshals carrying guns. Ruby met the same crowd and mob day after day for months, but Ruby was strong. She wore a clean dress everyday and held her head high. Though she walked slowly at first, she would walk quickly through the crowd, never saying a word.
When inside, Ruby was alone. Parents of the white children refused to send their children to school if Ruby was going to be in their class. Although she wished there were other children for her to play with and learn with, she did not let it get her down. Miss Hurley, her teacher, was there everyday with Ruby and was greeted by Ruby's smile and willingness to learn, daily. Eventually Ruby leaned to read and write and never lost her sweetness. Miss Hurley was impressed by this small girl and even more so when she watched as Ruby walked to school one spring day and saw the mob even more agitated than usual and it looked like Ruby was talking to them. When Ruby got into the classroom, Miss Hurley asked her what she said to upset the crowd. Ruby swore she said nothing to them. She said that everyday on her way to school she would pray for the mob, but this morning she forgot until she was right in the middle of the crowd. But she didn't want to not pray, so she did: " Please God, try to forgive those people. Because even if they say those bad things, They don't know what they're doing. So You could forgive them, Just like You did those folks a long time ago When they said terrible things about You."
Ruby's story brought me to tears. Her incredible strength, character, and personality as a first grader is incredible. She was wise beyond her years and she absolutely was an inspiration to white and black Americans alike. I can't imagine that kind of resilience and bravery in a girl so young. A leader, a hero, a brave young girl all describe Ruby. Themes of overcoming adversity and bravery in the face of adversity made great change in America.
*This is an excellent story to teach young children about the Civil Rights movement. It is especially important to discuss with children the reasons why Ruby was alone in school, why the mob treated a young girl the way that they even though she was only 7 years old, and how desegregation impacted America. This can be a springboard to very important discussions.
*Students can research other young African American children, their stories in 1960 and how they too impacted America.
*Students can look at the religious components to this book. The importance of prayer, faith, and church. Ruby's mother tells readers how important it was to her and her husband that the children grow up feeling close to God and how this faith contributed to Ruby's strength to find it in her heart to walk to school everyday and pray for those who are not supportive of her.
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and truly helped to capture Ruby's story to perfection.”