A Visit with Ruby Bridges

The Class of 2020 had a special opportunity to meet with American civil rights activist Ruby Bridges.

Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis. Burke's eighth graders had the opportunity to ask questions and hear more about why she has made reaching out to young people her life’s work. The thoughtful and open-ended discussion included comments on how students may work to make the world more equitable and inclusive. Ruby Bridges responded by saying that, “Racism can fool you into thinking that you don’t need to be friends with someone because they look a certain way.” She credited her relationship with her first-grade teacher as helping her to understand that people who look similar can be very different from each other. Her supportive first-grade teacher was nothing like the people yelling outside the school every morning. She encouraged Burke’s eighth graders to work against bullying and set an example to make the world a better place where schools are safe and people feel welcome. 

Other questions revolved around how she handled loneliness and if she wished her parents had not made the decision to send her to an all-white school. She acknowledged that while she didn’t understand the decision at six years old, as she grew up she understood their sacrifice and was proud of their bravery. As for handling the loneliness, it was once again her teacher who made the difference. Ruby said, “I knew if I could get past that crowd of screaming people I would have a great day.”

The session ended with advice for our students as they make their way through a particularly challenging time in the world. “Every one of us needs to be doing something good to make a difference in the world. It’s very hard for all of us right now, but I hope it is an opportunity to think about what’s important and think about what we can do to make a difference. Make a card, help a nurse, always do something to be kind to one another. I think adults underestimate what kids can do to make a difference. The best way to handle hard situations is to try to take it and do something positive with it. Try to share it with someone else to see if you can help someone from your experience.”

Instagram: @rubybridgesofficial / Website: www.rubybridges.com
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Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.

Katherine Delmar Burke School

An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
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