In the fall of 1960 in New Orleans, Louisiana, six year old Ruby Bridges was getting ready for her first day of first grade. What is an unremarkable event for most six year olds – if anything, a little nerve-wracking – would be no ordinary day for Ruby Bridges. Instead, Bridges was making history. She was the first African-American student to integrate William Frantz Elementary School. Four U.S. Marshals protected her from screaming protestors who were lining the sidewalks and crowding around the school. Although Bridges attended the school, she was separated from her would-be classmates. Her first grade teacher, Ms. Henry, taught her one on one and neither one of them missed a single day of school the entire academic year. Day in and day out, the Marshals protected her on every single trip in and out of the building.
Bridges shared her story with students using photos and videos spanning decades of her life. Before moving on to a new photo, she would stop to answer students’ questions, which were thoughtful and engaging. One student asked if walking by the screaming crowds ever scared her, to which she replied, “Whenever I went through the crowd, I thought of something that made me happy.” She also emphasized the importance of giving everyone you meet a chance. “It doesn’t matter what your friends look like, just that they know how to be a good friend,” said Bridges, facing the crowd of students. “From where I sit, you all look like M&Ms. You look different, but you’re all the same inside.”
She shared that she and her teacher, Ms. Henry, are best friends to this day and see each other at least once every year. What has become a beautiful, decades-long friendship between Ms. Henry and Ruby all started because they both gave each other a chance.
Thank you to Ruby Bridges for taking the time to visit Gaynor and speak to our students!