This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Ruby Bridges. It is designed to complement the Ruby Bridges topic on BrainPOP Jr.

Ruby Bridges was born in Mississippi in 1954–the same year the Supreme Court ruled to end segregation in schools (Brown v. Board of Education). Ruby was the first African-American child to attend an all-white school in Louisiana.

Explain to children that in the years leading up to Supreme Court’s ruling, segregation–the separation of people based on race, culture, religion, or other reason–was a way of life in the United States. There were segregated schools, movie theaters, restaurants, restrooms, buses, sports teams, and more. Black people weren’t even allowed to use the same water fountains as white people.

Racism was also a part of life at this time in history. Explain that African Americans and people of other races were turned away and mistreated simply because of the color of their skin. In addition, services for people of color were often substandard. For example, schools for black children were very poor and overcrowded, making learning very difficult. This was not the case at schools for white children.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 1954 meant that African-American children could now go to school with white children. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that easy. Even though it was against the law, some schools in southern states wouldn’t allow black children to go to white schools. Others made it very difficult by insisting that black children take a very difficult test that they’d have to pass in order to attend. They set up the black students to fail.

Ruby Bridges took the test and passed. That fall, at just six years old, a very brave Ruby became the first African-American student to attend all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. There were angry protests of students, parents, and teachers who were against integration, and some threw things at Ruby as she walked to school. U.S. Marshals and her mother escorted Ruby to class to protect her from the mobs.

Many parents pulled their kids out of the school and teachers stopped teaching all because of Ruby Bridges. Ruby’s simple action of going to school led to the loss of her father’s job and the removal of her grandparents off their farmland. But these challenges did not stop Ruby. While many protested, she also had some important people cheering her on. In addition to her family, one teacher—Mrs. Henry—stood by Ruby’s side, coming in every day to teach her. One of her most famous supporters was Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States. Roosevelt wrote a letter encouraging Ruby. Over time, students and teachers returned to school and more African-American children enrolled, all due to Ruby Bridges’ amazing courage.

Ruby Bridges’ story is an important one, and a great way to encourage your students to be activists for change in their communities.

Filed as:  Ruby Bridges