“You Cannot Look at a Person and Tell Whether They’re Good or Bad. Evil Comes in All Shades and Colors”

The first black student to attend an all-white elementary school in the South was six-year-old first-grader Ruby Bridges, who broke this race barrier in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960. Her parents wanted her to attend the all-white elementary school because they believed that she would get a better education there. Many people protested, and Federal marshals had to escort her to school to keep her safe. The adult Ms. Bridges said, “The truth of the matter is at six-years-old I knew absolutely nothing about what was going on. … The only thing that I was ever told is that I was going to attend a new school today, and, ‘Ruby, you better behave!’” The teachers at the school mostly refused to teach a black child. The exception was Barbara Henry, a white schoolteacher from Boston. Ms. Bridges said, “You cannot look at a person and tell whether they’re good or bad. Evil comes in all shades and colors. That is the lesson that I learned from the teacher that looked exactly like the people outside that threw things, spit, and yelled—she looked exactly like them, but she was different, and I knew that at six years old, because she showed me her heart.” Ms. Bridges also had support from people in her neighborhood: “I was escorted every day by Federal marshals, but everyone on my street walked behind the car every day… I would pass [the windows of a dry cleaners’ shop] every day, and all the men that worked in the dry cleaners would wave and say, ‘How are you doing today? You do good in school.’ So when I got my report card, I would stand by those windows … and they would see it and they would hand me dollar bills. … That’s a community, and that’s what we need again.”

For Further Information, “Inspiring Lessons From Ruby Bridges: A True American Heroine.” Huffington Post. 12 October 2012

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