Ruby Bridges Hall Visits Fay
On Tuesday, May 7th, Fay was pleased to welcome Ruby Bridges Hall to campus to share her story and perspective with our Upper School students. Ruby became a seminal figure in the civil rights movement when she was chosen in 1960 at the age of six years old to be the first African-American child to desegregate her all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Ruby’s story has been the subject of several books including her own book Through My Eyes, a 1998 made-for-television Disney movie titled Ruby Bridges, and the iconic 1964 painting The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell.
When Ruby started first grade at the William Frantz Elementary School, she was escorted to school every day by US Marshalls through a crowd of jeering protestors. She spent that first year as the only student in her classroom because white parents refused to have their child share a classroom with her. Her teacher, Barbara Henry, moved to New Orleans from her home in Boston to teach her because teachers in New Orleans were quitting their jobs rather than having to teach black children. As Ruby grew up she researched her story and role in history and shared what she learned with Fay students.
Ruby’s age and childish innocence gave her a unique perspective on this tumultuous experience. As a New Orleans resident, crowds were nothing new to young Ruby and she recalls believing at first that the new school she was being sent to was actually college and that the protests and people gathering every day were Mardi Gras celebrations. She also recalls loving school and her time spent in the classroom with Barbara Henry who she noted became her “best friend” that year and went on to become her lifelong friend. She also recounted the friendships forged between herself and the US Marshalls who protected her through that experience. Ruby was never allowed to go to the school cafeteria for fear of poisoning and initially wasn’t allowed to go to the playground for recess.
Relenting to pressure from Barbara Henry, the principal of the school finally allowed Ruby to join other students at recess and it was then that she learned the truth. One little boy admitted that his mother had told him not to play with her because she was black. “It was like a weight lifted because what he said answered all my questions,” said Ruby. “This isn’t college and it’s not Mardi Gras, this is about me and the color of my skin.” Ruby urged Fay students to broaden their perspective and think beyond race as she echoed the message of Dr. Martin Luther King. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that it has something to do with what you look like. You need to take the time to get to know each other and judge each other by what’s on the inside”