Recently The Gordon Parks Foundation discovered over 70 unpublished photographs by Parks at the bottom of an old storage box wrapped in paper and marked as “Segregation Series.” These never before series of images not only give us a glimpse into the everyday life of African Americans during the 50′s but are also in full color, something that is uncommon for photographs from that era.
Not all that long ago the law of the land was segregation. All professional sports, concerts, buses, trains, bathrooms, pools, beaches, water fountains, restaurants and schools all had restriction on skin color. Then in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 the courts ordered the first day of integrated schools and all hell broke loose.
Her father was fired from his job because he allowed his daughter to go to an all white school. Her grandparents, sharecroppers in Mississippi were kicked off the land they worked and lived on.
Ruby Bridges was 6 years old.
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 Ruby 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.
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
REAL people, both Black and White, stood up and made a difference. When all the teachers in the school refused to teach Ruby, Barbara Henry said she would, simply because it was right. A white neighbor provided her father with a new job. Some white families did send their children to school despite the protests.
It has taken America awhile to really be the land of the free…but it has always been the home of the brave. Just look at 6-year-old Ruby Bridges.