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Civil Rights Activist

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At the ripe age of six years old, Ruby Bridges became a force and cause for advancement in the civil rights movement in 1960 when she became the first African American student to integrate an all-white elementary school in the south.

Ruby’s birth year coincided with the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, which ended racial segregation in public schools. Nonetheless, southern states continued to resist integration. A year later, however, a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate.

The school district created entrance exams for African American students to see whether they could compete academically at the all-white school. Ruby and five other students passed the exam. Her parents were conflicted over whether to let her attend an all-white school. However, Ruby had the educational opportunities that her parents had denied. Ruby and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals to the school every day that year.

She walked past crowds screaming vicious slurs at her. Undeterred, she later said she only became frightened when she saw a woman holding a black baby doll in a coffin. She spent her first day in the principal’s office due to the chaos created as angry white parents pulled their children from school. Because of this decision, Ruby’s parents lost their jobs, and grocery stores refused to sell to her family. Her grandparents, who were sharecroppers, were evicted from the farm they had lived for over 25 years.

Ruby went on to later write about her experiences in two books that received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award. A lifelong activist for racial equality, in 1999, Ruby established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change through education. We celebrate Ruby Bridges and her family for their bravery and courage to break barriers in this country for Black people. This month, on Impact you can watch and celebrate more Black heroes on Impact TV.

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