Ruby Bridges: First African American Girl to Integrate a School

Imagine being the only person that looks like you, in a place where it is obvious you are not wanted. The scene described above is what Ruby Bridges experienced at only six years old. Ruby Bridges was the first African American girl to integrate an all-white school in 1960. This happened during a time of segregation which made her story really important. An article that gives us a perspective on what happened during Ruby's school years, is an article from the website Social Studies for Kids.

This article would be considered a secondary source. It gives us a view of what others saw and thought Ruby was going through while attempting to support the integration of schools. Another article that was from a primary source was from the website NPR, which included an interview with Ruby Bridges talking about her personal experience and how she felt during that time. Looking at these two articles it became clear to me that both articles were talking about the same event and had some similarities, but there were also many differences.

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The perspectives of these two articles describing Ruby Bridges were very different. The Social Studies for Kids article was told from the perspective of someone who did not experience the story of Ruby Bridges first hand, but had heard the story of what happened to Ruby Bridges and is written in the third person. Whereas the article from NPR is written in the first person because it is Ruby Bridges who is speaking about her own story.

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Perspectives are determined by individual experiences. The two articles are written in a way that shows that the author's experiences in life may have been different. Personal point of views and or world experiences help shape individual perspectives. The writer of the article written more for children stated that "Coles wanted other children to know of Ruby's courage" However when we hear Ruby tells her story she didn't really feel as if she was being courageous, just obedient. This is evident when she states,"I really wasn't aware of what was going on. I mean the only thing that I was ever told by my parents that I was going to attend a new school and that I should behave." Her perspective and the way she viewed the world came from her state of mind during that time and her values.

Another difference between these two articles is the different audiences. The article from NPR is for a mature audience and the article from Social Studies for kids is for a younger audience. With these audiences being different that means that the language and vocab are going to be different as well. The Social Studies for Kids article uses basic vocab that children would see in their history book or hear in their classrooms. One example of this is when the author states, "Ruby's year at school wasn't easy. She had nightmares. For a time, she stopped eating the lunch that her family had prepared for her." The language and vocab we see in the NPR article is the type of language you would expect when having a conversation with someone who is more mature. Both Martin and Ruby Bridges which were the two people talking are very educated and you can see this in the article. You can see this because of the tone of the conversation. They are just calmly sitting and having a conversation and not just scratching the surface of the Ruby Bridges experience, but really going deeper. Martin the interviewer states in the article, " they wanted to end the political invisibility that came with segregation." This statement is one example of the maturity level that was required by the reader of this article. To be able to fully appreciate the conversation between the two and understand the correlation between segregation and politics, one must reach a different level of maturity than what is required to understand the views discussed in Social Studies for Kids.

One thing that both of these articles have in common is that they both have the same theme and overall focus, integration of schools and equal opportunity for all. The article from Social Studies for Kids says " The integration came about as a result of a court order, not as a result of a request from the school." It talks about how not many white people wanted Ruby at their school. In the NPR article Ruby talks about how "if you build a first-class school, an environment that you say, you know, will be diverse, we're going to devote so much attention to diversity and teaching them values and having them learn side-by-side, I do believe that that somehow will help to close the gap." Both articles focus on segregation of schools contributing to the problem of inequality. This explains why Ruby's family allowed her to be exposed to a hostile environment. They were hoping that their small child would help make a larger impact on the world by helping bring about equality for people of all races.

I have experienced what it is like to be in a school where only two percent of the student population looked like me. Lucky for me, I was welcomed in my environment but understand the importance of integration and equal opportunity personally.

Both articles address the abuse Ruby experienced but in very different ways. The Social Studies for kids article alludes to how cruel these adults were to Ruby but definitely not in as much detail. The article for kids states, "Someone in that angry mob threatened to poison Ruby's food, so she brought her own food to school. Other people found other ways to try to unnerve Ruby." The level of abuse experienced by Ruby involved so much more. However, I believe the authors motives for writing it this way was to appeal to his younger audience. The NPR article had many more references related to the mental and verbal abuse Ruby endured. Ruby clearly states in her interview that she had no idea why they were yelling and screaming at her and the various things they would bring to torment her. Ruby Bridges states " I turned that corner and saw them and heard them, I thought I had stumbled into the middle of a Mardi Gras parade." Ruby's perception of those type of events was probably necessary to help her get through such a divided time in our world. Ruby also gives us a vivid description of another time fear set in. She stated, " I was afraid because on occasion the crowd would bring a box, and this box was actually a baby's coffin. And they would put this black doll inside of the coffin." I can only imagine how she felt after seeing that. Since she was only six years old she probably played with dolls like the one they put in the coffin and once she realized that the doll represented her and they were talking about killing her, how she was able to continue to go to school and learn is unimaginable.

Ruby Bridges had a very different experience at school than most children back then. Both of these articles talk about Ruby's school experience especially her first day. The article from Social Studies for Kids says " On that first day, Ruby spent the entire day in the principal's office", this was true but it didn't give many details of what happened after she left the principal's office. The NPR article discusses the same day, but definitely has more details about what truly occurred that day. Ruby talks about how she did get rushed into the principal's office as soon as she got there she witnessed the following. " I remember seeing them pass the windows and point at me and they were shouting and their faces seemed really angry about something" All of this was done so schools would stay segregated. With all this going on Ruby didn't even realize they were angry because of her. Ruby also says " what they were actually doing is going into every classroom and pulling out every child." Ruby had to go through all these negative environments on her first day of school. Perhaps the author of Social Studies for Kids hesitated to expose the younger audience to such details and didn't want to taint their idea of adults and or the first day of school. I understand the need to write in a way that will reach your audience, but I don't agree with leaving out details that may help students understand the severity of the situation.

One area where the perspectives were very similar throughout both articles was the focus on how this experience affected her entire family. Both articles talk about the hard times Ruby Bridges family had to go through. Ruby also says in the NPR article " my mother and father had gone through such a hard time that by the time I graduated from sixth grade, they were separated." I would imagine this was really hard for Ruby to endure especially after all she had already experienced. The Social Studies for Kids article gave a little bit more details with what happened to Ruby's family in hard times. It says "Her father lost his job but was eventually offered another one at another business. Her grandparents were forced to leave the land where they had been sharecroppers for 25 years." Having bad things happen to your family shared in both perspectives was an unfortunate part of RubyBridges journey. It appears that both authors may have backgrounds where the family is valued because they both felt the need to be descriptive when discussing the struggles Ruby Bridges family experienced. It highlights another sacrifice that was a result of their determination to achieve equality.

One question that I feel only one of the articles addressed was, why segregation existed in the first place. What is the real reason whites didn't want their children attending school with blacks? The only people that seemed to have a problem with it was the white adults because they wanted to keep everything segregated. We have segregation because of racist and unrealistic adults. The article from Social Studies for Kids doesn't address this topic, however, in the interview with Ruby Bridges, she makes it clear that adults were and continue to be the problem. Many people believe segregation to be a thing of the past. Ms. Bridges did an excellent job making sure the reader understands her truth. " Well, I guess the question would be, you know, are they really getting the same opportunities? Somehow, schools are still segregated. I mean, are they really getting the same opportunities in those different schools?" Segregation was a mixture of inequality and racism which is something that we as adults have kept alive. Kids are not born racist this is something they are taught. I believe that the reason Ruby shared these thoughts because she wants readers to understand that it is it' is their responsibility to raise their kids to be better than us and to not judge people based on their skin color. People may think that segregation ended way back in the day, but that's not true, it's still going on today and it is up to us, young and old to help put a stop to it.

Both these articles have different styles and perspectives when telling the story of Ruby Bridges. Social Studies for Kids was simple and carefully selected what facts they chose to share. The NPR interview took a more personal approach full of vulnerability and detail. I think both approaches to storytelling are very important. People respond or learn differently and are often inspired in a variety of ways. Although the sources have their differences I believe it allows the readers a larger perspective on the same topic.

It appears that the purpose of each article was different, which caused the way they were written to also be different to some degree. Social Studies for Kids was to provide information to the readers. The NPR interview provided information as well as causing the reader to reflect on a past event and apply what they learn to help improve the future. Reading and comparing these two articles was a great example of how the same event can be interpreted in different ways but still give you valuable information.

Updated: Mar 22, 2023
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Ruby Bridges: First African American Girl to Integrate a School. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from

Ruby Bridges: First African American Girl to Integrate a School essay
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