Many European-Americans were unhappy with African-Americans being allowed into the “all-white” schools. White parents pulled their children out of schools to prevent them from attending school with black children. Schools refused to open. Black children’s lives were threatened. Despite resistance, many brave black children attended white schools in the hope of receiving a better education. They paved the path for today’s integrated schools. Now, all children, no matter what race or color, can attend public schools.
Show students the cover of
The Story of Ruby Bridges
by Robert Coles. Tell students Ruby Bridges was the first black child to attend an all-white school in the year 1960. Ask them to look at the people on the cover and explain what is happening. An angry mob of white people is protesting. They do not want to allow a black child into an all-white school. Despite the ugly scene, Ruby keeps her head held high as she enters the school in the hopes of receiving a better education. During or after reading the story, ask the children how Ruby must have felt being accompanied by armed marshals while walking through the mob every day? Ask them to imagine what it would be like if they were the only child in an entire school. Lead them to discover how brave Ruby was. Following this conversation, show Norman Rockwell’s painting of Ruby Bridges.
The Problem We All Live With (1964, Norman Rockwell). Having read the story, solicit from children what they notice about this painting. Ask students who is in the center of the painting. Tell them that the girl is Ruby Bridges. Encourage students to notice the guards around Ruby and the tomato that was thrown at her. Ask students how Ruby is portraying herself. She is looking straight ahead, paying no attention to the angry mob from which the tomato came. Remind students of the part of the story where Ruby prays for the crowd. Show another of Rockwell’s paintings.
The Golden Rule (1961, Norman Rockwell). In this piece, people from all races are crowded together, hands clasped, faces hopeful. The saying “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” appears across the painting. Ask students what the saying means. Lead them to discover Ruby believed in this rule. Instead of fighting back, she cared about the angry white protestors and forgave them because they didn’t know what they were doing. Ask students if they think it is better for people to be separated like they once were, or united as in this painting.
If the class is diverse, have students draw pictures of their classmates. If not, have students draw pictures based on the people portrayed in
The Golden Rule
Continue reading books about integrated schools such as
by Patricia Polacco or
by Christopher Myers.
is about a prejudice white boy in an integrated school. The boy’s views have been tainted by the views of his father. Mr. Lincoln, the black principal, finds a way to get the boy to see beyond color.
Wings is set in the city. Ikarus Jackson is a boy who literally has wings. This makes him quite different from the other children and often causes him to be the center of ridicule. Even his teachers view him as a distraction. A girl in Ikarus’s class stands up for him and Ikarus learns to appreciate his uniqueness.