Why Is Ruby Bridges an Important Figure in History?

Ruby Bridges holds an important place in American history because she was the first African-American child to go to an all-white public school in the South. Federal marshals escorted her to the William Frantz School on Nov. 14, 1960. Due to the chaos outside, classes were not held that day.

Born on Sept. 8, 1954, in Tylertown, Mississippi, Bridges was one of a number of African-American students chosen to take a test to determine whether they would be able to attend an all-white school. At age 6 she learned she passed the test and would be attending the all-white elementary school that was five blocks from her house, rather than black school that stood several miles away. Although she passed the test in time to start school at the beginning of the school year, it took three months for the integration process to be completed due to a fight from the Louisiana State Legislature.

Following her experiences at the school and the tragic death of her younger brother, Bridges founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation in New Orleans. The foundation bases its work on promoting tolerance, appreciation, respect and an end to racism and prejudice. The foundation also works to enable parents to become more involved in their children's education.