Today is the 56th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ boundary-breaking first day of school

On this day 56 years ago, a 6-year-old girl walked into a school building.

It should have been mundane, like any other day – but that girl was Ruby Bridges, a young black girl on her first day at an all-white school.

Angry protestors screamed at her as she walked in, and most parents pulled their children out of class for the day.

And Ruby, just a child, had no idea.

“Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras,” Bridges told PBS NewsHour. “I really didn’t realize until I got into the school that something else was going on. Angry parents at that point rushed in and took their kids out of school.”

For an entire school year, a teacher taught Ruby alone in an otherwise empty classroom.

This was not centuries or eons ago. Bridges is still alive and healthy, younger than many of our parents.

Take a second to think about that, about how recently a 6-year-old girl was viewed as a threat. How recently a child in hair bows and ankle socks was forced to bear the weight of a movement on her tiny shoulders.

I wish I could say, 56 years later, that the world was free of the hatred that surrounded that New Orleans school in 1960.

I wish I could say it was all in the past, blown away like chalk dust from the classroom Ruby sat in alone.

Because we’ve come so far since then, but it’s not far enough.

“Racism is a grown-up disease,” Bridges famously said.”We must stop using children to spread it.”

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