A federal judge ordered New Orleans to open its public school to African-American children. The white parents decided that, if they had to let black children in, they would keep their children out. They let it be known that any black children who came to school would be in for trouble. So the black children stayed home, too—except six-year-old Ruby Bridges. Her parents sent her to school all by herself.
Every morning she walked alone through a heckling crowd to an empty school. White people lined up on both sides of the way and shook their fists at her. They threatened to do terrible things to her if she kept coming to their school. But every morning at ten minutes to eight Ruby walked, head up, eyes ahead, straight through the mob. Two U.S. marshals walked ahead of her and two walked behind her. Then she spent the day alone with her teachers inside that big, silent school building.
Harvard professor Robert Coles was curious about what went into the making of courageous children like Ruby Bridges. He talked to Ruby’s mother and reported what she said. “There’s a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what’s good and what’s not good,” but there are other folks who, “just put their lives on the line for what’s right.”