“2, 4, 6, 8, WE DON’T WANT TO INTEGRATE!” the crowd shouted at the innocent little girl. Some people even threw stuff at her! Why? Only because she was black. First-grader Ruby Bridges knew that all she had to do was get past that mob and she would have a great day at school.
How do I know this? Because I met the actual real, live Ruby Bridges at The Henry Ford Museum and that is what she said! We were there to listen to her speech about how she helped integrate an all-white school in 1960. But right before her speech, she was bombarded by a crowd of eager people wanting her autograph, her picture, or a question. When it was our turn, I was a bit starstruck for a second and I couldn’t think of what to say because ever since I was in first grade, I always admired her because she was such a brave little girl, even at age 6. And she inspired me to be confident, even though I am young.
Finally, my mom said, “Come on, Elena,” and I asked Ruby Bridges if I could take a picture of her. Then my mom took a picture of me with her. And I gave her an Elena Reads bookmark. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!
Then she did her speech. It gets 4 out of 4 roses!
I already knew some of the stuff in her speech because my first grade teacher told us about her. Also, I saw the movie, Ruby Bridges, read the book, The Story of Ruby Bridges. I also read three other books with her in it, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World , Ruby Bridges Goes to School, and Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changes the World, which I reviewed. Last year, I saw an exhibit on school integration that included her at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (See photo below.)
But Ruby Bridges also said a lot of stuff I didn’t know. Here are some examples:
- After her first day of school, she and her sister jumped rope singing “2, 4, 6, 8, WE DON’T WANT TO INTEGRATE!” They didn’t know what that meant, but they liked that it rhymed and was a good jump rope song.
- Mrs. Henry, the white teacher who taught her in first grade, is still her best friend.
- She had four sons. Unfortunately, one was murdered.
- The movie about her was mostly true, but one part bothered her. In real-life, people brought a child-sized coffin with a black doll inside to scare her outside of school, but Disney made the coffin much, much smaller for the movie. Ruby Bridges said, “If I saw it, why can’t other kids” but they still wouldn’t make the coffin bigger.
- Many years later, the school that she integrated was damaged from Hurricane Katrina. It was fixed and now is pretty much an all-black school. Ruby Bridges said she was a little upset about that.
I liked how she took questions from the audience because it gave people a chance to tell her what was on their minds. I got to ask a question: “Do you think children’s books can help unite people?” This is what she answered: “Absolutely. I love children’s books. I have 20 or 30 in my head.”
Then Ruby Bridges said she remembered meeting me earlier and she thought what I was doing with the blog is really great. “I have an idea,” she said. “And I’ll be in touch.”
I was very excited and I was dancing in my heart. That was the BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE!
(In the photo below, Ruby Bridges is in the bottom on the left.)