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Ruby Bridges Hall

African American World for Kids

Ruby Bridges Hall
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When September came that year, I didn't start first grade at William Frantz. The lawmakers in the state capital, Baton Rouge, had found a way to slow down integration, so I was sent back to my old school.

All through the summer and early fall, the state legislatures fought the federal court. They passed twenty-eight new anti-integration laws.

The federal court, led by Federal District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright, unyielding in his commitment to upholding the law of the land and his dedication to equal opportunity for all Americans, would block the segregationists again and again.

The anger all across New Orleans convinced Judge Wright that things might grow violent. He asked the U.S. government rush federal marshals to New Orleans to protect the black first graders. There were four of us in all. There was a fifth girl originally, but her parents decided at the last minute not to transfer her. Three of the remaining children, all girls, were to go to a school named McDonogh. I was the fourth child. I was going to integrate William Frantz Public School, and I was going alone.

On Sunday, November 13, my mother told me I would start at a new school the next day. She hinted there could be something unusual about it, but she didn't explain. "There might be a lot of people outside the school," she said. "But you donšt need to be afraid. I'll be with you."

NOVEMBER 24, 1960

My mother took special care getting me ready for school. When somebody knocked on my door that morning, my mother expected to see people from the NAACP. Instead, she saw four serious-looking white men, dressed in suits and wearing armbands. They were U.S. federal marshals. They had come to drive us to school and stay with us all day. I learned later they were carrying guns.

I remember climbing into the back seat of the marshals' car with my mother, but I don't remember feeling frightened. William Frantz Public School was only five blocks away, so one of the marshals in the front seat told my mother right away we should do when we got there.

"Let us get out of the car first," the marshal said. "Then you'll get out, and the four of us will surround you and your daughter. We'll walk up to the door together. Just walk straight ahead, and don't look back."

I remember looking out of the car as we pulled up to the Frantz school. There were barricades and people shouting and policemen everywhere.

As we walked through the crowd, I didn't see any faces. I guess that's because I wasn't very tall and I was surrounded by the marshals. People yelled and threw things. I could see the school building, and it looked bigger and nicer than my old school. When we climbed the high steps to the front door, there were policemen in uniforms at the top. The policemen at the door and the crowd behind us made me think this was an important place.

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Excerpted from THROUGH MY EYES by Ruby Bridges. Published with permission from Scholastic Inc. All rights reserved.
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