Ruby Bridges Reflects On Historic 1960 School Integration

Ruby Bridges is looking back on becoming a pivotal part of the civil rights movement in the American South.

Bridges, now 69, became the first African American child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School in 1960 at the age of 6.

In a new interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Bridges told host Kristen Welker that she initially thought she was “venturing into a Mardi Gras parade” when the U.S. Marshals escorted her into the newly desegregated school.

She said she underestimated the gravity of the historic milestone because her parents didn’t relay its significance to her at the time.

“My parents never explained to me what I was about to venture into. The only thing they said is, ‘Ruby, you’re going to go to a new school today, and you better behave.’ And living in New Orleans and being accustomed to Mardi Gras, I mean, you know, we see that during Mardi Gras. Huge crowds screaming and yelling,” Bridges recalled.

She said what “protected” her during the revolutionary transition was the “innocence of a child.”

“So I often say what protected me was the innocence of a child. I thought that day I was venturing into a Mardi Gras parade,” she continued. “So I wasn’t afraid. It took a while before I really found out that the crowds were out there for me. And that happened when I finally had an opportunity to meet another child.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Bridges opened up about her thoughts on the increase in book bans in schools amid politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passing legislation for anti-education laws that forbid curriculum on Black history.

“I think that’s ridiculous. I mean, most of my books have been banned. And the excuse that I’ve heard them give is that my story actually makes, especially white kids, feel bad about themselves,” she said.

“I believe that it’s just an excuse not to share the truth, to cover up history,” Bridges added. “But I believe that history is sacred. That none of us should have the right to change or alter history in any way.”

Watch Bridges’ full interview below.