Authored by: Deserae Archibald
Ruby Bridges was born in Mississippi to a family that was very
poor. Her parents worked hard to provide for her, but there were many
nights that there was nothing to eat for dinner. At the age of 4,
Ruby and her family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where her
parents obtained better jobs.
In 1960, the treatment of African Americans was not equal to that
of whites. Black children attended different and separate schools
than white children. While it was illegal to treat African Americans
different than other people, much of the south didn't comply with
When Ruby was old enough to begin school, a judge ordered her to
attend an all white elementary school. She and her parents were so
very proud to take part in this important event in history. The
Bridges' family attended church every Sunday thanking God for this
opportunity and asking for the strength to stand up for what they
believed. Ruby's parents taught her the importance of holding her
head high and to be proud of who she was, and that's exactly what she
Ruby's first day at Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans came
quickly. As she walked to school, she was escorted by two federal
marshal's. The city and state officers in New Orleans refused to
escort Ruby to school because they did not want Ruby to attend an all
white school. So, the President of the United States, Dwight D.
Eisenhower, intervened and sent federal marshals to protect Ruby.
What would Ruby need protection from? Angry mobs!! Along the streets
and sidewalks, Ruby faced several angry people screaming and yelling
"Blacks don't belong in our schools!" As Ruby approached the Frantz
Elementary School, the mobs got worse. It was a good thing Ruby had
federal marshals to protect her because several of the people in the
mob looked angry enough they could have hurt her. When she arrived
safely inside the school building, she noticed that she was the only
child there. In fact, the only other person inside was her teacher.
Every child who attended Frantz Elementary School stayed home. Their
parents didn't want their white children to attend school with Ruby
because she was black. So, while Ruby was learning how to read and
write, all of the other children stayed home.
Each day, Ruby had to face these angry mobs as she walked to and
from school. The days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into
months and still Ruby was the only one in the Frantz Elementary
School receiving an education.
One day as Ruby was walking to school, she stopped in the middle
of the angry mob and began to talk. This made the mob go crazy and
they began yelling even louder. The federal marshals got scared at
what the mob might do and urged Ruby to continue walking. Again, she
arrived safely at school. Ruby's teacher asked her why she had
stopped to talk to those angry people. Ruby corrected her teacher by
telling her that she wasn't talking to the people, she was talking to
God. Every day, as she walked to and from school, she would repeat
Please, God, try to forgive those people
Because even if they say those bad things,
They don't know what they're doing.
So You could forgive them,
Just like You did those folks a long time ago
When they said terrible things about You (Coles, no page,
Later that same year, Ruby was joined by two white children at
the Frantz Elementary School. As each day passed and more children
returned to school, the mob quit their protests. It was obvious that
Ruby was not going to let the angry mob intimidate her. In fact, Ruby
finished her first grade year at Frantz Elementary School and went on
to graduate from high school.
Ruby is still living in the New Orleans area with her husband and
4 sons (all of which attended school in the New Orleans Public School
Coles, Robert. (1995). The Story of Ruby Bridges. New
York, NY: Scholastic.
1. Children will observe and record differences among their
classmates while participating in activities that promote thinking
and enhancing social skills.
2. Children will understand the meaning of equality and it's
importance in each of their lives.
3. Students will be able to select and defend a word that they
think best describes Ruby Bridges.
4. Children will gain a knowledge of Ruby Bridges and of her
contribution to our society.
5. Students will communicate their understanding of differences
and the effects differences have on our lives.
Approximately 5 days.
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
Parent Letter (see appendix)
1. Think-pair-share. Individually, have students think of
the many differences they note among their classmates. For example,
eye color, hair color, languages spoken, having the ability to roll
their tongue, etc. In pairs, have the children share the differences
they thought of. As a class, students will list all of the
differences they came up with.
The students will then chart these differences. While charting these
differences, the teacher will point out that there are numerous
differences among the class and that each difference makes us unique
from everyone else.
2. Guided Discussion: Discuss the differences charted from
the think pair-share activity. Define the term equality and ask
children if these differences make one person better than another.
Provide children with hypothetical situations in which some of the
class members were given certain privileges that other students could
not participate in because they were different. For example, only
girls were allowed to eat their lunch in the cafeteria while the boys
had to eat their lunch outside (no matter what the weather was like).
Or, children who were left handed had to attend a different school
from those right-handed children. Ask students how they would feel if
they couldn't do everything that other children could do just because
they were different in some way. Emphasize that although we may be
very different from one another, we are all equal and that we each
deserve the same opportunities and privileges. Reinforce what the
meaning of equality is.
Briefly introduce Ruby Bridges to the students as one who was viewed
by many as having differences from others. Focus children's attention
on Ruby's courage and strength as you read The Story of Ruby
3. Numbered Heads: Upon reading the book The Story of
Ruby Bridges, present the following questions on the board:
Who was Ruby Bridges?
What made Ruby so different from everyone else?
How would you feel if you were Ruby?
What would you do if you were Ruby in that situation?
In what ways has Ruby's strength and courage affected your lives?
Divide the class into 4 or 5 groups. Within each of these groups,
have children number themselves 1 to 5. Each group will discuss all
of the five questions on the board, making sure each member
understands both the question and the answer. Once each group has
been given enough time to discuss each question, assign the 5
questions on the board a number 1 through 5. Each group member will
be responsible for the question that matches their assigned number
(given earlier in the activity). Provide students enough time to
gather their thoughts. Each group member will then be given the
opportunity to orally share what they have discussed as a group.
4. Corners: Have the following 4 words taped up in the 4
corners of your classroom:
Call students attention to the following statement: "The word
that best describes Ruby Bridges is..." Ask students to decide which
word they agree with most and ask them to stand in that corner. Make
sure that the children know what each of the words mean before you
expect them to successfully accomplish this activity. As a group,
students should discuss their reasons behind choosing their word and
then explain it to the rest of the class. Students will then write a
letter telling Ruby Bridges why they think what she did was important
(the address to Ruby Bridges Foundation is located at the back of
The Story of Ruby Bridges).
5. Value Whip: Starting at one end of the room and going
quickly around to the other side of the room, like a whip, ask the
students to respond to any of the following questions:
-"What is one thing you would change in Ruby Bridges life?
-"If you could chose one of the qualities of Ruby Bridges for
yourself, what would you chose and why?"
-"If there was a child who was different form everyone else and
wasn't allowed in our school because of that difference, would you do
anything to help that child? Why or why not?"
-"If you were Ruby Bridges would you have continues going to school
or would you have stayed home where you were safe?"
-"Are you proud of who you are and what differences you may
Give students a minute to think about the question you have asked
them to respond to before beginning the activity.
6. Family Involvement: To go along with the theme of
difference, children and their families will be given the opportunity
to recognize and celebrate their differences (which many include a
tradition, family vacation, or a special occasion). At the end of the
week, culminating our discussion on differences, each child and
his/her family will have the opportunity to share a difference unique
to their family. Conclude with a discussion celebrating our
1. Chart for Think-Pair-Share will be assessed for students
understanding of differences.
2. Assessment will occur informally through observations made by
the teacher during the guided discussion.
3. As the groups of students discuss the questions for numbered
heads, the teacher will walk around the room and monitor children's
participation in the discussion. Final oral responses will also be
4. Letters will be assessed for their understanding of Ruby
5. Assessment will occur based on children's participating in the
Value Whips activity.
6. Assessment of the family involvement will be made through
observations of the students reactions, questions and comments about
each family's "difference."
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