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Ruby Bridges Hall

African American World for Kids

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There were times that winter when I did show stress. Nightmares would come, and I would get up and go wake my mother for comfort.

My mother would raise herself up in bed. "Did you say your prayers before you went to sleep?" she would ask.

If I hadn't, Mama would say, "Honey, that's why you're having a bad dream. Go back now, and say your prayers."

I would do as she said, and then I would sleep. Somehow it always worked.

Another problem that year was lunchtime at school. I often ate in the classroom by myself while Mrs. Henry took her lunch break with other teachers. The marshals sat outside while I opened up my lunch box. As time went on I wouldn't eat. First I blamed it on the fact that my other fixed too many peanut butter sandwiches. Then I began to wish and wish that I could go the cafeteria. . . I was convinced that kids were there. I began hiding my uneaten sandwiches in a storage cabinet in the classroom. In my magical way of thinking, not eating lunch would somehow get me to the cafeteria.

When roaches and mice began to appear in the room, a janitor discovered my old sandwiches. She [Mrs. Henry] was just sorry there were so many days when I hadn't eaten. After that she usually ate with me so I wouldn't be lonely.


Near at the end of the year, Mrs. Henry and I finally had company. A few white children began coming back to school, and I got an opportunity to visit with them once or twice. Even though these children were white, I still knew nothing about racism or integration. I had picked up bits and pieces over the months from being around adults and hearing them talk, but nothing was clear to me. The light dawned one day when a little boy refused to play with me.

"I can't play with you," the boy said. "My mama said not to because you're a nigger."

At that moment, it all made sense to me. I finally realized that everything had happened because I was black. I remember feeling a little stunned. It was all about the color of my skin. I wasn't angry at the boy, because I understood. His mother had told him not to play with me, and he was obeying her. I would have done the same thing. If my mama said not to do something, I didn't do it.

The next thing I knew, it was June. That incredible year was over. Oddly enough, it ended quietly. I don't remember any special good-byes as I headed off for summer vacation. I was sorry to leave Mrs. Henry, but I somehow thought she would be my teacher again in the fall and forever.

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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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