The Pardu

The Pardu
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Ruby Bridge: The Little Girl and The New Orleans Segregated School

What we do early in life, leads to what we are later in life
The Pardu

The Distance between Dreams and Reality is called Discipline
Some people achieve, while others stays the same despite having huge dreams that they repeat from time to time. What is the difference? Discipline. Those with discipline turns dreams into reality through action. Despite all the ups and downs, they make sure they do their best to carry them out. Moving forward, even if its just a small step, they are always ahead to those who do not act.

Ruby Bridge and her impact on US History.
As a nation we use the Roman Calendar and three day weekend holidays to show respect and celebrate our history.   We also celebrate and commemorate people, historic events, and we have celebrations that add significantly to the nation's GDP (Valentine's Day, Halloween, Mother's and Father's Day). We do not often reach-back into our history with respect for people and historic events that profoundly shaped  change in our nation.   I call it "our forgotten past."

As we watch with utter contempt at how some in America (predominately conservatives, bigots, racist, and haters of government) react to the 2008 election of the nation's first African-America president, I reflect back to a time of my youth.  

My reflection takes me to people of utter courage. In many ways courage only rarely matched since 1776. Courage takes on many forms. It can run the spectrum from direct confrontation regarding early collective bargaining to  Women's Suffrage, through the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, courage is synonymous with anyone who swears into the US Military. 

Our commemoration relates to a time so disruptive to the nations paradigm, it literally drove a divide through the Mason Dixon line that will never cease exist   The impact of the two Executive Orders and a nationally forced change from segregated schools were clear cases of profound nation building.  The Orders also provide the catalyst for dismantling commonly accepted segregation as a national norm: Brown v. Board of Education (1954); Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957).

Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957)

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Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957)
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Eisenhower's Draft for Little Rock speech (third draft), September 24, 1957
Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957)

Courage from the White House is an expectation, as we learned from the actions of Abe Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and the actions of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Subsequent, yet equally profound,   to Eisenhower's Order was historic acts from President Kennedy and his Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Truman's desegregation of the US military was nothing shy of a hallmark presidential Executive Order.  Dwight Eisenhower's "doing-the-right-thing", in initiating the process of desegregating the nation stands as a seminal Executive Order.  In some ways Eisenhower's Executive Order was comparable to Lincoln's 13th Amendment. Lincoln freed the nation of the egregious ill of human ownership. Eisenhower declared war on institutions that, post Lincoln, held people in social and political bondage: Jim Crow

Eisenhower's 1957 Executive Order led to heroism and courage most of us can only imagine and quickly dismiss as too dangerous.  An Executive Order that would lead to years of strife for African Americans and white civil rights activist who sacrificed to secure equal rights for African Americans.  

The Executive Order also catalyzed acts of courage and heroism from organizations, individuals and families who pioneered, when the majority demurred.  One such case is the story of a six year old who is blazoned in US History as deeply as Orval Faubus's defiance of ordered de-segregation in the neighboring State of Arkansas and George Wallace's historic resistance in the State of Alabama. Ruby Bridge was the first African-American to attempt desegregation in the New Orleans, LA school system. She has a place in history that was captured by the talents of Norman Rockwell and much more recently acknowledged in the White House by the nation's 44th President, Barack Obama. 
"The Problem We All Live With" by Norman Rockwell depicts Ruby Bridges being escorted to school by federal marshals.


It is worth noting the ever-present phrase "States Rights". If you think Ron Paul, Rand Paul, the vast majority of Libertarians and America's conservatives do not practice regressive coded mantra, look at the placard (up right). Have you heard the words recently? Have you heard the words from liberals or progressives? 

The six years of age Ruby Bridge; an American exercise in personal and family courage.
(Less than two minutes)

Ruby Bridge has developed as an iconic figure, while remaining profoundly humble and strikingly refrained from the public spotlight.

The inquisitive mind has to venture into wonderment of Ruby Bridge in more recent times. The Teacher's College at Columbia University in 2004 published a piece that is deeply reflective of Ms. Bridge Hall and introspective about the former pioneer of personal rights and Civil Rights. 

The source of the following text has eluded me, my research indicates the text, in part, is from Wikipedia. I will admit to failure in locating the full text source, but rest assured the text was pasted here and do not come from personal knowledge of Ms. Bridge Hall.
Courageous Ruby Nell Bridges Hall, born September 8, 1954, is known as the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South in 1960, despite the enormous pressure and hatred from white citizens. She attended William Frantz Elementary School at 3811 North Galvez Street, New Orleans,LA 70117. 
In 1960, when she was 6 years old, her parents responded to a call from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans School system, even though it did not want her to. 
In Spring 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of several black children in New Orleans to take a test to determine which children would be the first to attend integrated schools. Six students were chosen; however, two students decided to stay at their old school, and three were transferred to Mcdonough. 
Ruby was the only one assigned to William Frantz. Her father was initially reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to "take this step forward ... for all African-American children." 
The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, was commemorated by Norman Rockwell in the painting The Problem We All Live With. 
As Bridges describes it, "Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras." 
Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, "She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we're all very proud of her." 
As soon as Bridges got into the school, white parents went in and brought their own children out; all teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. They hired Barbara Henry, from Boston, Massachusetts, to teach Bridges, and for over a year Mrs. Henry taught her alone, "as if she were teaching a whole class." 
That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal's office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her; because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, only allowed Ruby to eat food that she brought from home. 
Another woman at the school put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school, a sight that Bridges Hall has said "scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us." 
At her mother's suggestion, Bridges began to pray on the way to school, which she found provided protection from the comments yelled at her on the daily walks. 
Child psychiatrist Robert Coles volunteered to provide counseling to Bridges during her first year at Frantz. He met with her weekly in the Bridges home, later writing a children's book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, to acquaint other children with Bridges' story. 
The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary: her father lost his job, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land.

On January 8, 2001, Bridges was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. 
In October, 2006, the Alameda Unified School District dedicated a new elementary school to Ruby Bridges, and issued a proclamation in her honor.

President greets and commemorates with Ms. Bridge Hall.

“Being informed is invaluable, remaining uninformed is dangerous." The Pardu

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