“The story begins in the mid-20th century, a time when racial segregation was enforced by laws and practices across much of the United States in schools, this meant that a type of educational apartheid where white and Black students were kept apart. Then in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and had to stop, but change was slow to come.
“In 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges made history as the first Black student to enroll at an all-white elementary school in the south, but she was met with a wave of hostility…”
There at William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, first-grade teacher Barbara Henry “created a safe haven for Ruby at school—and taught her every subject alone. Despite the masses against them, they had a good year.”
This Untold History video summarizes their story: One teacher with one student, never missing a day.
“Barbara Henry’s determination and Ruby’s fortitude became an inspiration to other Black families who eventually began to enroll their children too.”
And according to the The Barbara Henry Courage in Teaching Award website, “when Ruby entered second grade, her school was actually desegregated. William Frantz was back at full enrollment. Students shared classes, lunch, and recess, regardless of the color of their skin.”
Hear the history-making story in Barbara Henry’s own words in the Kiwanis video interview below:
Related reading from 2022 at NPR: Ruby Bridges on turning her experience of desegregating a school into a kids’ books.
Watch more videos about American history, civil rights, and incredible teachers, including:
• Rosa Parks, her story as a lifelong civil rights activist
• The Fight for Fair Housing in Milwaukee: Vel Phillips and James Groppi
• What is systemic racism?
• Betty Reid Soskin and a short tour of the “Rosie the Riveter” Museum
• Kentucky’s Horse-Riding Librarians