A piece of American history came to life at Olmstead School last week when author and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges spoke to students.
Ms. Bridges was only 6 years old and in the first grade when she walked through the doors of William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Ruby was chosen, based on test
scores, by the NAACP as one of three first graders to integrate, per a court order, the all-white school on November 14, 1960.
Both of Ruby’s new classmates backed out of integrating the school the day before they were to begin at William Frantz leaving Ruby to be the only African-American student to do so.
Despite the death threats, harsh words, and picketing opposition Ruby and her mother, escorted by federal Marshalls, entered the school and made history.
Ruby would continue to show bravery and fearlessness with the help of her teacher, a white lady from Boston, Mrs. Henry even though hundreds of white students were
pulled from the school by parents. Together Ruby and her teacher learned life lessons alone throughout Ruby’s first grade year until the spring when less than ten white students returned to school.
Students studied the civil rights movement including Ruby Bridges’ for a month leading up to the surprise visit, per Ms. Bridges’ request. Online web quests, double journal entries, and delving into text written by and about Ruby Bridges (Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles) were all part of the learning process.
Olmstead students of all ages were inspired and challenged by Ms. Bridges’ story and other African-Americans who changed America. Middle school students were told true stories of struggles for racial desegregation in the south, listened to Ruby Bridges’ brave story, and viewed photos documenting the integration of William Frantz Elementary School. Primary students also heard Ms. Bridges tell her story along with viewing some of Ruby’s personal photographs. Both groups ended with a question and answer time.
Students asked Ruby Bridges about how she felt to be treated with such cruelty along with her plans for the future of William Frantz Elementary School which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Ms. Bridges told students she feared little most days during her experience thanks to her faith and prayer.
The Ruby Bridges’ Foundation headed by Ruby continues to raise funds and awareness of equality in education along with rebuilding the school where she changed history. William Frantz Elementary School will reopen in 2012 thanks to Ruby Bridges’ efforts. Ms. Bridges’ visit also included a book signing in the library where students and staff spent one on one time with the author.
Ruby Bridges’ visit is one that Olmstead students and staff will not soon forget. The themes "Open Hearts, Open Minds" that Ms. Bridges continually shares all across America, radiated throughout the day as well as her message and challenge to love all people despite the color of their skin.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Civil Rights activist Ruby Bridges visits Olmstead School
This from the News-Democrat & Leader: