New Orleans – US Civil Rights Trail

How One Little Girl Inspired a Nation

New Orleans is a landmark site for public school integration for two reasons: a courthouse and its judges, and a brave little girl named Ruby Bridges. At age 6, Ruby was the only African-American student to attend William Frantz Elementary upon its integration. Escorted by federal marshals, she faced an angry mob of segregationists, daily threats to her well-being and intense harassment. Nevertheless, she continued attending the school, and many community members, both black and white, stepped in to protect her. Ruby became a symbol of hope and bravery during the nationwide battle for school integration.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit was home to the “Fifth Four,” four judges who contributed to several landmark decisions regarding school desegregation. It was because of these judges that children like Ruby were able to attend formerly all-white schools and be educated alongside white students.

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