On November 14, 1960, 57 years ago, America took one very small step toward equality for all. It was on that day that a first grader, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, became the first African-American to enroll in an all-white southern school. The famous photograph shows police guarding the door to the elementary school. Federal marshals escorted Ruby to class. What you don’t see are the white protesters shouting at the 6-year-old. The scene was later brilliantly captured by artist Norman Rockwell. So, nearly six decades later, what’s the state of segregation? Not good. According to USA Today:
“(GAO) investigators found that from the 2000-2001 to the 2013-2014 school year, both the percentage of K-12 public schools in high-poverty and the percentage comprised of mostly African-American or Hispanic students grew significantly, more than doubling, from 7,009 schools to 15,089 schools. The percentage of all schools with so-called racial or socio-economic isolation grew from 9% to 16%.”
And, interestingly, most of heavily segregated states today aren’t in the south as outlined in this report from The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
57 years later, Ruby Bridges is alive and well and living in Mississippi. She is the founder of the Ruby Bridges Foundation to fight racism and intolerance. In 2001 she received the Presidential Citizens Medal where she said, ““I was an innocent child that knew absolutely nothing about what was happening that day,” she recalled, “but I learned a very valuable lesson — we should never look at a person and judge them by the color of their skin. ”
See the story of Norman Rockwell’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” in this video above.