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Ruby’s Story

February is Black History Month. Here’s the story of a young girl who helped change the country for the better.

Black and white photo of a young girl and three men in suits walking down the steps of a building.


When Ruby Bridges was 6 years old, she was the first Black student ever to go to her school. Bridges became famous as a brave girl who helped make the country a fairer, more equal place to live. Now, she’s telling her story in a book for kids called I Am Ruby Bridges.

Bridges was born in the 1950s, at a time when many public places in the southern United States were segregated. There were separate public schools for white and Black children. But in 1960, a court ruled that schools in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Bridges lived, could no longer be segregated. They had to be integrated. This means that schools had to allow both white and Black students to attend. A small group of children were selected to become the first Black students at different schools in the city. Bridges was chosen to go to William Frantz Elementary School. 

Many white people were angry that the schools were being integrated. They turned their anger on Bridges. When she arrived at school, a crowd of people yelled at her and made it clear that they didn’t want her there. Bridges had to enter the school building with four federal marshals—people who were assigned to protect her. 

When Bridges got to her classroom, she saw that she was the only student there. The other students’ parents had taken them out of school. All year, it was only Bridges and her teacher, who treated Bridges with kindness and respect. The two women are still close friends today.

Bridges played an important part in the civil rights movement and Black history. Her courage helped paved the way for schools in New Orleans to become fully integrated. But what was it really like for 6-year-old Ruby to go through this experience? In I Am Ruby Bridges, Bridges describes her experience, through the eyes of a kid. 

“That [experience] shaped me into a person that is not prejudiced at all,” Bridges told the Associated Press. “And I feel like that little girl is still inside of me, and that it’s my calling to make sure kids understand that you can’t look at someone and judge them.” 

In 2011, Ruby Bridges met with U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama was the nation’s first Black president. You can see some of this meeting in the video below.

Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With,” 1963. Oil on canvas, 91.44 cm x 147.32 cm. Story illustration for “Look,” January 14, 1964; Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. © NRELC: Niles, IL. Official White House Video

Ruby Bridges met with President Barack Obama in 2011.

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Did You Know?

Portrait of Carter G. Woodson

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

February is Black History Month in the United States. The idea to set aside a time of year to celebrate Black history came from Carter G. Woodson, a writer who taught history. In 1926, Woodson started Negro History Week. It was set for the second week of February. Woodson wanted to celebrate the heritage (the background and story) of Black Americans and help educate all Americans about Black history.

In 1976, U.S. president Gerald Ford set aside all of February as Black History Month.

Big Names in Black History

To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve put together a list of some important people in Black history. You can learn more about them at Britannica School!

Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784)

Illustration of Phillis Wheatley sitting at a desk with a quill pen and paper

The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wheatley was kidnapped from Africa and enslaved when she was a child. She became the first Black American to write a book when her poetry was published in 1773.

Frederick Douglass (1817 or 1818–1895)

Photo portrait of older Frederick Douglass sitting

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C

Douglass was enslaved until he escaped in 1838. He went on to write and make speeches about his experiences as an enslaved person. He worked to end slavery.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831–1895)

Title page from a book called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts

National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland (67521160R)

This is the title page of a medical book written by Rebecca Lee Crumpler.

Crumpler was the first Black woman doctor in the United States. She helped many Black Americans receive medical care. She also wrote a book about medicine and health care. There are no known photos of Crumpler.

Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993)

Photo portrait of Thurgood Marshall in judge’s robe

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZC6-26)

Marshall was the first Black justice (judge) on the U.S. Supreme Court, the most powerful court in the United States. He spent his career working for equal rights for Black Americans.

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (1912–2002)

U.S. Air Force

Davis was commander of a group of talented military pilots called the Tuskegee Airmen. He fought in World War II. Davis also helped desegregate the U.S. military so soldiers of all races would serve together.

Claudette Colvin (born in 1939).

Photo portrait of teenage Claudette Colvin

IanDagnall Computing/Alamy

In 1955, when Colvin was 15, she would not give up her bus seat to a white person. This was against the law, and Colvin was arrested. Colvin worked to change laws that allowed Black people to be treated unfairly.

Celebrate Black History

A GIF that scrolls through the portraits of many well known and influential Black Americans

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-ppmsca-08978, LC-USW3-001546-D, LC-USZ62-127236, LC-USZ62-27663); Addison N. Scurlock—Michael Ochs Archives, Kean Collection—Archive Photos, © Michael Ochs Archives, Evan Agostini/Getty Images; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C. (object no. 2009.50.2); PRNewsFoto/XM Satellite Radio/AP Images; AP Images;  NASA; National Archives, Washington, D.C. (2803441); Pete Souza—Official White House Photo; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

You can read more about Black history at Britannica School!

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