Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to attend
an all-white elementary school in the South.
The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New
Orleans, November 14, 1960, was commemorated by
Norman Rockwell in the painting The Problem We All Live
As soon as Bridges got into the school, white parents went
in and brought their own children out; all but one of the white
teachers also refused to teach while a black child was enrolled.
Only Barbara Henry, from Boston, Massachusetts, was willing
to teach Bridges, and for over a year Mrs. Henry taught her
No other children joined the class, and within a few days, Ruby
was going to school alone with the Marshals; her mother had
to return to work. Then the Rev. Lloyd Foreman broke ranks with
the white boycotts and sent his daughter Pam to school. The Ku
Klux clan began burning crosses in black neighborhoods to
frighten the people into giving up their fight for equality.
But Ruby quickly became a symbol of freedom, appearing in
John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and a Norman Rockwell
painting than ran in Look Magazine. When Abon Bridges lost
his job at a local filling station for sending Ruby to a white school,
the family began to receive gifts and money from all over the U.S.
Even former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Ruby.