Sunday Salon – Review of “Through My Eyes” by Ruby Bridges

The Sunday Salon.com

Through My Eyes tells the story of the forced integration of white schools in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960. Citizens and officials alike had defied federal orders to integrate arising from the seminal 1954 court case, Brown vs. The Board of Education.

In 1956, 101 politicians in Congress (99 Democrats and 2 Republicans) issued a document called “The Southern Manifesto,” opposing the findings of the Brown decision. (Manifesto signers were from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.) The Southern Manifesto accused the Supreme Court of “clear abuse of judicial power.” It further promised to use “all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation.” A federal court, however, finally ruled that New Orleans must integrate, beginning with the first grade. Thus in 1960, Ruby Bridges started school at William Frantz Elementary. Three other black children went to McDonogh Elementary. Ruby was alone at William Frantz.

U.S. Deputy Marshals escort six-year-old Ruby Bridges from William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, La., in Nov. 1960.

Federal Marshals were required to escort Ruby safely to and from school and to guide her through the mobs of protestors. Whites pulled their children out of the school, and Ruby became the only pupil in her class supervised by a brave teacher from the North, Barbara Henry.

Daily mobs gathered and protesters hurled threats and racial epithets. Eventually, however, some of the whites started to return to the school, though Ruby was still kept apart from them. For the second grade, Ruby was able to be part of classroom full of students, including some other blacks.

November 15 1960, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA — Women at William Franz Elementary School yell at police officers during a protest against desegregation at the school Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Ironically, years later, through residential segregation, Frantz Elementary again became segregated, although now it is a “black” school rather than a “white” school.

Back in 1960, Yale legal scholar Charles Black (and one of the architects of the Brown court case) posed the question: “does segregation offend against equality?” He answered:

“…if a whole race of people finds itself confined within a system which is set up and continued for the very purpose of keeping it in an inferior station, and if the question is then solemnly propounded whether such a race is being treated ‘equally,’ I think we ought to exercise one of the sovereign prerogatives of philosophers – that of laughter.”

Ruby has devoted her adult life to telling her story in the hope that inner city schools can metamorphose into the learning centers they were meant to be when whites attended them. Her bravery as a little six-year-old girl has inspired people across the country.

Evaluation: Although this wonderful compendium of text and photographs is suggested for ages 8-10, I would change that to 8 and up. My husband and I both found it riveting and powerful. Highly recommended.

Published by Scholastic Press, 1999

Awards:

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Children (2000)
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2003)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2001)
NCTE Orbis Pictus Award (2000)
The Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature Honor (2000)
Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (2000)

Norman Rockwell’s Iconic Paining of Ruby Bridges

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About rhapsodyinbooks

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17 Responses to Sunday Salon – Review of “Through My Eyes” by Ruby Bridges

  1. Table Talk says:

    You would hope that this type of story was a thing of the past, but in a couple of years time no doubt someone will be writing the story of the school in Northern Ireland where something very similar happened two years ago on a religious rather than a racial division. Do we ever learn?

  2. Julie P. says:

    I think I should have my 10 year old daughter read about this so she realizes how lucky she is! Great review!

  3. bermudaonion says:

    I find it amazing that they considered having one African American girl in a classroom by herself integration.

  4. Lisa says:

    Even though I grew up in the 60’s, it didn’t touch my life and it still just seems impossible that one group of people could treat others so poorly and get away with it legally.

  5. Zetta says:

    Very interesting about the photos of the mob…when the Without Sanctuary exhibit toured the South, some galleries rejected it over fears that local whites would see themselves in the images of smiling lynchers…nice thorough review.

  6. Discrimination is there all over the world in one form or the other. In India, it is more in the lines of caste.

    Today I finished Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, which to touches racial discrimination even during WWII.

  7. Ti says:

    This would be a great book for my kids. My little one is younger than 8 but her thought processes seem to be a bit more on the mature side.

  8. Staci says:

    This book is stellar. I loved it from the very first reading of it!

  9. Gavin says:

    A wonderful review. I am adding it to the list of books we need to add to our school library.

  10. susan says:

    Love your review. Will look for the book.

    Thanks for participating in the challenge. I have more ideas in store.

  11. Jenners says:

    I think the photo and the painting say soooooo much. I admire her … I think most kids couldn’t have done what she did.

  12. Wisteria says:

    Terrific post as usual Rhapsody. I have two copies of this marvelous book in my media center. I agree third grade and up is the best age level. It is an outstanding biography that sees much use in our school.

    There is also a book for level two readers called Ruby Bridges Goes to School. It is coming out at the end of the year, my vendor says December 2009. It is a short true story written by Ruby Bridges that should complement this picture book biography.

    Have a happy week ahead. –Wisteria

  13. Margot says:

    Another great post. I went off and read Ruby’s website and Maw Books’ post and forgot to come back and says thanks.

  14. janelle says:

    I look forward to introducing my daughter to this book when she is a little older. One of the more interesting articles I’ve read about Ruby Bridges was published in Guideposts (http://www.rubybridges.org/story.htm) Ruby discusses the influence of her favorite teacher, Barbara Henry.

  15. Belle says:

    This sounds like a fantastic book – I like the way you revised the age to 8 and up, rather than 8 to 10. It definitely sounds like a very good book.

  16. A wonderful ‘middle reader’ that adults will benefit from as well; your suggested age-range is well taken!

    I’ll look for this one for our family library – my kids still don’t really “get” racial discrimination, it’s such a foreign concept in their worlds. I try to explain our Metco program (students from Boston are bused to the suburbs) started as an anti-discrimination measure.

    From their website: “The Metco Program is a grant program funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is a voluntary program intended to expand educational opportunities, increase diversity, and reduce racial isolation, by permitting students in certain cities to attend public schools in other communities that have agreed to participate.”

  17. Damon Sanford says:

    i think segregation is dumb its the worst think ive ever heard of im mixed and in the 1950`s and 1960`s kids that were black could not go to all white schools and they even had different water fountains.And it is a good book ive read it.Its fantastic.

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