Ruby Bridges is 58 years old today. But she made history before she was old enough to even understand the importance of her actions. She was 6 years old when she broke down a racial barrier and entered Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. She was too young to understand why the police had to escort her the school. She didn’t understand why parents took their children out of school. She didn’t understand the yelling crowds in front of the school that first day. And she didn’t understand why only one teacher, Barbara Henry, was in the school. Day after day, for an entire year, Barbara Henry taught to a classroom with only Ruby in it.
Ruby understands now. And what she understands is that racism has to be taught. At the time she entered school that day, with police escorts, angry mobs, and racial slurs being yelled at her, she knew nothing about the racism that raged around her. “None of us know anything about disliking one another when we come into this world,” she says today. “It is something passed onto us. We should never look at a person and judge them by the color of their skin. That’s the lesson I learned in first grade.”