Ruby Bridges

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She was a child. She was adorable in her innocence. And she was unaware of the long-term impact her small step would have on her community. As a young brilliant student who passed the aptitude test required for admission to a more prestigious educational institution, she paved the way for the unification of two radically different races and groups. She became a public figure at the tender age of six when she entered and desegregated an all-white school. She had no idea that her enthusiasm for a new institution would make a significant difference in the lives of colored Americans, who assumed African-Americans were incapable of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with them. However, it was her determination and struggle that enabled her to overcome all odds and complete her education. Numerous books, paintings, and films have documented the hardships and obstacles she encountered during her early years. Since then, she has been fighting and working to improve the lives of African-Americans and to provide them with a free and liberated environment through her foundation. She is tenacious and unwavering in her pursuit of equal opportunities for children to grow and prosper.

Childhood & Adolescence

Ruby Bridges was born Ruby Nell Bridges on September 8, 1954 in Tylertown, Mississippi, the eldest of four children to Abon and Lucille Bridges.

Because her family was sharecroppers, they relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, when she was four years old in search of a better life. This was also a time when blacks faced significant discrimination from whites.

To help with the rising costs, her father took a job as a service station attendant, and her mother began working night shifts.

Despite the fact that she lived only five blocks from an all-white school, she had to walk several miles to an all-black school.

She was the sole student who chose William Franz Elementary School out of the six students who passed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) test in 1960 to attend an all-white school.

On November 14, 1960, she became the first African-American to attend an all-white school in the Southern United States (or the South), thereby integrating a white school and transforming the prevailing educational system.

Bridges and her mother were escorted to school on their first day, fearful of protests from white parents who did not want their children to study with a black girl.

On the second day, it was assumed that she would be unable to attend classes due to her refusal to be accepted by all teachers. Barbara Henry, a new teacher from Boston, Massachusetts, stepped forward and welcomed her.

For the entire year, she was her teacher’s sole pupil. Her nurturing nature and support aided her in overcoming obstacles in the curriculum as well as the hostility associated with being born black.

After being threatened with poisoning each day at school by a different woman, President Eisenhower directed the four US marshals he deployed to ensure that Ruby consumed only food brought from home.

Her family, too, bore the brunt of her admission to a predominantly white school. Her father was laid off, her mother was unable to shop at her regular grocery store, and her grandparents were evicted from the land on which they had lived for years.

Things began to change toward the end of the first year, when her grade’s students began returning to school. By the beginning of the second year, it appeared as though everything had settled down.

Bridges was no longer the only student in her class, as her second grade class had grown to over 20 students, and she gradually adapted to the new environment.

After completing her elementary education at William Franz Elementary School, she enrolled in another integrated high school, Francis T. Nicholls High School.

Career of Rubby

She earned a bachelor’s degree in travel and tourism from Kansas City Business School. Following graduation, she accepted a position with American Express as a world travel agent.

When her brother Milton died as a result of a drug-related incident in 1993, she adopted his four daughters and enrolled them in William Franz Elementary School.

She began volunteering at William Franz three times a week and quickly developed into a parent-community liaison. She immediately gained popularity and was reunited with her first teacher, Henry, after Coles’ book about her was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Significant Works of Rubby

Bridges founded The Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to assist and encourage parents in educating their children about the importance of ending racism and promoting equal rights for all.

Awards and Accomplishments

On January 8, 2001, US President Bill Clinton bestowed the Presidential Citizens Medal upon her in recognition of her unflinching courage and strength.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis held an exhibition in 2007 depicting the lives of Ruby Bridges, Anne Frank, and Ryan White.

Tulane University in New Orleans bestowed an Honorary Degree on her in May 2012 during the annual graduation ceremony held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Personal History and Legacies

Bridges married Malcolm Hall in 1984, and thus became Ruby Nell Bridges Hall. The couple resides in New Orleans with their four sons.

Her bravery on her first day of school, while escorted by four US marshals, inspired Norman Rockwell to create the painting ‘The Problem We All Live With,’ which was featured on the cover of Look magazine in January 1964.

Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist who counseled her during her first year of school regarding the growing riots and protests against her, penned a children’s book titled ‘The Story of Ruby Bridges’ in 1995 as an inspiration for other students.

‘Ruby Bridges,’ a 1998 made-for-TV film, was based on her struggle and ignorance at William Franz Elementary School.

In October 2006, the Alameda Unified School District dedicated a new elementary school to her.
Mario Chiodo unveiled the humanitarian monument ‘Remember Them’ at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in 2011, which included a statue of a young Bridges.

Estimated Net Worth

Ruby Bridges’s current net worth is estimated to be $724,709, based largely on her estimated salary and income of $227,668. Ruby earned an estimated sum as a Civil Rights Leader.


When she first arrived at the school, she mistook the large crowds of protesters for a Mardi Gras celebration, a New Orleans-based annual carnival.

Barbara Henry paid a high price for supporting Ruby by resigning from her job. Due to the fact that her contract was not renewed, she was forced to return to Boston with her husband.

As the only student in the class, she was so stressed that she stopped eating and hid her lunch in the storage cabinet. Mrs. Henry began entertaining her during lunch after being discovered by a janitor.