Ruby Bridges made history on November 14, 1960 when she crossed the threshold of the for- merly all-white William Frantz Elementary School. The image of Ruby committed to canvas in 1964 by the legendary American artist, Norman Rockwell, is a powerful icon documenting the end of segregation in the South. Some 50 years later, however, systemic inequality remains a glaring issue in urban schools. Ruby discusses this “new” segregation of schools when she speaks to students across the country. Not long after realizing her calling, Ruby created the Ruby Bridges Foundation with the mission of fostering racial healing and promoting racial equity both locally and nationally.
Not long after realizing her calling, Ruby created the Ruby Bridges Foundation with the mission of fostering racial healing and promoting racial equity both locally and nationally.
The foundation’s primary initiative is to create a school in the William Frantz Elementary building that will serve as a model for integration and equity in education. It will create a learning environment that brings children together so that they can do what previous generations have not been able to do: embrace our racial and cultural differences so that we can move forward. The mission of the Ruby Bridges School of Community Service & Social Justice (RBS) is to educate leaders for the 21st century who are committed to social justice, community service, equality, racial healing and nonviolence.
William Frantz remains vacant some ﬁve years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Ninth Ward neighborhood where Ruby was raised and lived most her life. In fact, her childhood home was torn down after being inundated by ﬂood waters.
Ironically, just prior to the hurricane, the very school that whites once fought to keep blacks from attending, was mostly black, mostly poor, and riddled with the same problems many ur- ban schools face. William Frantz stands as a symbol of the inequity in New Orleans, both before the storm and during the city’s recovery.
The school will provide the community with sustained support as it promotes racial and cul- tural understanding, equity and solutions to structural racism. It will act as an anchor for the Ninth Ward’s development and work in conjunction with other organizations serving the area, such as the Musician’s Village, the Make it Right Foundation, the Ellis Marsalis Music Center, the New Orleans Police Department, the City of New Orleans, local universities, and poten- tially, the Louisiana Civil Rights Museum. As such, the vision is about much more than a school. It is about using one neighborhood as a laboratory for achieving lasting change toward realizing the dream of Dr. King. The project will serve as a model that can be used around the globe. Though the endeavor has lofty goals, it is being implemented strategically in phases.