As crowds outside chanted, screamed and demanded continued segregation, Ruby Bridges learned a valuable lesson as the only Black child in a previously all-white school in New Orleans in 1960.
She and her teacher, Barbara Henry — a white woman who was the only instructor in the school who agreed to teach Ruby — proceeded with their lessons. When the angry crowd outside grew too loud, the teacher turned on the radio.
“The lesson that I took away from that classroom, that first-grade experience, is the exact same lesson that Dr. (Martin Luther) King tried to teach all of us,” Bridges said during a virtual talk November 5 to an audience at Notre Dame. “That we are to never look at a person and judge them by the color of their skin. You honestly have to judge a person by the content of their character. You have to allow yourself an opportunity to get to know them.”
Her teacher taught that lesson by opening her heart “and it shaped me into who I am today,” Bridges said.
This story was originally published in Notre Dame Magazine on November 8, 2021.