Ruby Bridges, The First Black Student To Attend An All-White School In The South, Writes Children’s Book About Desegregation

I am Ruby Bridges is marketed for young children and tells the story of desegregation from the author's six year old perspective.

By Kari Apted | Published

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Ruby Bridges, the brave first-grader who became one of the first Black students to attend racially segregated schools in New Orleans, has released a new children’s book. I Am Ruby Bridges tells the story from the author’s six-year-old perspective in a beautiful 48-page picture book marketed for children four to eight years old. Illustrated by renowned artist Nikkolas Smith, the book is published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Ruby Bridges
Front Cover of I am Ruby Bridges

The cover features young Ruby Bridges in the iconic red dress, white cardigan, and big white hair bow she wore on that historic November day in 1960 at William Frantz Elementary in Louisiana. On the back cover, Smith cleverly illustrated a bridge with beams spelling out the name “Ruby.” Tiny brown and white figures walk and dance along the top of the bridge. Above the bridge is printed one of Bridges’ famous quotes: “I will bridge the ‘gap’ between Black and white.”

Ruby Bridges was born in Tylertown, Mississippi in 1954—the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in schools unconstitutional. However, the south dug in its heels, refusing to integrate. A federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate in 1960, but the school district required the new Black students to pass an entrance exam. Bridges and five other students passed the exam. Still, the district found ways to delay their admittance until November 14.

Even though five other Black children passed the exam, Ruby Bridges was the only Black student walking into the all-white school on that historic day. Two of the other students decided not to leave their schools and the other three children attended a different all-white elementary school. Bridges had to be escorted in and out of the school by federal marshals as the streets were lined with angry protestors.

A biography on the National Women’s History Museum’s website states that young Ruby Bridges only became frightened when she saw a woman in the crowd holding a black doll inside a coffin. Many white parents chose to pull their children out of the school, causing such chaos on the first day that officials decided to keep Bridges safe in the principal’s office. The six-year-old faced relentless racial slurs and bullying from students and adults on a daily basis, but one teacher, Barbara Henry, accepted her. Ruby Bridges spent the remainder of the first grade as a class of one and had perfect attendance. Sadly, she ate lunch alone and her only playmate at recess was Ms. Henry.

Bridges, a lifelong activist for racial equality, calls the new book her “most personal book yet.” She said to NBC News that she hopes I Am Ruby Bridges will teach important lessons to a new generation of activists. “It is important for all children to know all of our history, good or bad. It is our shared history in this country and because of it we should all know that history.”

Ruby Bridges says she’s not worried about her book being affected by the growing trend of banning books on inequality. “There may well be backlash over this book, but it is my story,” she said. “It is my calling and the work I have chosen to do. I believe in my heart if we are ever to get past our racial differences it is going to come from our children.” She added, “I hope this book will inspire all children, not just children of color, to judge one another by the content of their character, not the color of one’s skin.”

Ruby Bridges
Ruby Bridges

Within a day of its September 6, 2022, release, I Am Ruby Bridges ranked #1 on Amazon in three categories: Children’s Multicultural Biographies, Children’s Black & African American Story Books, and Children’s American History of 1900s. I Am Ruby Bridges is the author’s fourth autobiographical children’s book. Other titles include, Through My Eyes: Ruby Bridges, This Is Your Time, and the Scholastic Level 2 Reader, Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story.