black women

Iconic Little Girl Finally Meets the Man Who Protected Her as She Desegregated a School

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By Staff Blogger

Imagine being a six-year old girl simply trying to attend school, but almost everyone around you hates you because of the color of your skin. Ruby Bridges did not set out to do anything historic, she simply wanted to learn. Her bravery led to the de-segregation of many schools in the South. She  instantly became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and was  immortalized in a celebrated Norman Rockwell picture that captured her first day of school.

In 1960, Ruby Bridges was the first student to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans. Standing by her side that day,to ensure her safe entrance into the school ,was  Charles Burks.  Burks, who is now  91 years old, was one of four federal marshals who protected the young Ruby.

This week the two were reunited at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Bridges is grateful that Burks went against the racial norm of the day to protect her, “Thank you Charlie for doing what was right at a time when it might not have been the easiest thing to do,” she told him.

Burks, in turn, expressed his gratitude for playing a role in helping to enforce the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to desegregate public schools. He explained, “It was a privilege to be able to do what I did, even though it was one of my duties. Everybody says it was just another job to do, but it was a wonderful job,” said Burks.

Bridges, who is now 58 and still lives in New Orleans, remembers the vile chants and the horrific image of a black doll in a baby’s casket as she passed through a sea of angry white faces. For many years, she had nightmares.  She recalls, “I would dream that this coffin had wings and it would fly around my bed at night, and so it was a dream that happened a lot and that’s what frightened me.”

Ruby Bridges now uses her experiences to educate and inform others about this very dark period in American history. Events such as this help to remind people that many of the children who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement are still very active in helping to pave the way for future generations.


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  1. Shirley Fey

    September 7, 2013 at 2:06 am

    I remembe that event,and many similar events. Unfortunately the hate still exist. The only difference is now racial profiling has taken up the hate. The many groups who hate people of color develop laws like” stand your ground and gun down innocent black youth because they can get away with murder. There are so many racially motivated crimes. Whites are so upset that we now have a black president. Many expect our president to solve all of the problems that the many white presidents created and have never resolved. The hatred continues. I pray that one day God will straighten all of thisoout. I know that God is the only way Jim Crow can be put to rest. I feel hate is not something you are born with, hate is taught. Little children don’t see color, their parents do. Hate has consumed so many people. Hate will continue as long as parents pass it on. Please give our children a chance in this world, and stop teaching hate. God hear my prayer.

    • sonja

      September 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Very well said Shirley.

  2. sonja

    September 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I can’t watch movies such as Mississippi burning because I live in the south and was born in Mississippi my parent sheltered us from all the evilness that surrounded us. I remember packing A Ice chest to travel,not knowing that we couldn’t stop and eat in diners along the always called it a family picnic. Southern Mississippi has evolved since I was a child with all the casinos it’s really a fun place to visit. And I’m sure there’s still racial unfairness there but I think they are trying hard to put those dark dangerous day behind them.

  3. tiamette

    September 14, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I was a child in 60’s Alabama. Our school in Conecuh County wasn’t integrated until 1970. It was a very violent and frightening time to be a child. I will never forget the nightmares and don’t want to be anywhere near that state. My family moved to New York when I was 15. I have since moved to Maryland due to a job transfer but would never venture further south than DC. I am constantly reminded of those days due to movies and ignorance that won’t die.

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