Ruby Bridges: American Civil Rights Activist

Ruby Bridges is 64. The reason why this observation is important is because Ruby Bridges is the face people remember when they talk about school desegregation in America. At six years old she walked into her new school armed by the national guard to become the school’s first black student. She had to have an escort from the national guard because there was a white mob outside of the school, and the state government was reluctant to do anything. She was taught in a class room alone by one teacher. White parents refused to have their children in class with her, and all but one teacher refused to do their job. It seems as a country we have let ourselves forget this was not so long ago. It has been 57 years since Ruby Bridges desegregated her school. So, has America successfully desegregated schools in this time?

In the 1950s America had the Civil Rights Movement became a part of the national conversation in America. One of the big topics they pushed was school integration. Schools in the south had laws that prohibited black students from attending white schools, while schools in the north were segregated by communities. Brown V. Board of Education was a land mark case that went to the supreme court. It challenged the state supported separate schools based on race. On May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous ruling siding with Brown that these situations were unconstitutional. He stated, “”Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children… Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”” (Warren). After this ruling schools all over the country were forced to integrate. By many this was seen to end school segregation.

Data is seen as the best way to understand an issue. If done correctly it is not partisan, and easy to understand. Unfortunately, measuring how schools are segregated in America is not simple. There are 50 states each with their own school systems, and racial makeups. Even, people who study this topic disagree how to measure segregation. For instance, there was a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, via UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. That showed that the percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are at least 50 percent white, was the same, 23%, in 1969 and 2011. The amount peaked in 1989 at 44%. Two people could both look at this data and arrive at different conclusions. One could say that the reason that the percentage went down to the same, is that America is less white than it was in 1969. Others could say that this is evidence showing schools have become more segregated in the past decades. In the end there is no clear-cut way to measure a whole country that has so many different laws and racial demographics. Although, experts do agree on characteristics an integrated school system would have. There would be an even racial ratio across schools, that don’t isolate minorities. The makeup should also represent the county it serves. These are the accepted ways to measure school segregation.

The reason it is important to measure schools by counties, and not communities, is because of a different type of segregation. Housing discrimination is another way that people of color have been disinfragshised against. They were less likely to be given loans from banks to buy houses. They were also suburbs that made rules against black and Latino people living in the community. This alone has effects that last longer than a generation. This is because “”generational wealth”” supports poor people staying poor. For example, an 18-year-old who has no credit needs a cosign on a loan of apartment lease. If their parent cannot fulfill this role, then then they don’t have a good foundation, and it becomes harder for them to break the cycle of poverty. Even today this issue is still relevant. As studies show that it is still harder for people of color to get loans. Evidence also shows that specifically in the north many communities are still segregated. So, a local high school can serve the surrounding community, and still be segregated. This can be seen as an unintentional, but housing discrimination facilitates segregated schools, and laws are still being passed that support these situations. All of this information makes it clear that to desegregate our schools, more needs to be done than just to stop refusing black students.

At this point readers are probably wondering. So how bad is it? Well a simple example is New York. It is a diverse city in the north where white people are the minority. However, “”In a city where white children are only 15 percent of the more than one million public-school students, half of them are clustered in just 11 percent of the schools…Black and Latino children here have become increasingly isolated, with 85 percent of black students and 75 percent of Latino students attending “”intensely”” segregated schools в schools that are less than 10 percent white”” (Hannah-Jones). These statistics are not encouraging, but their implications are what paint the true picture. As the Brown V. Board of Education ruling says, separate is inherently unequal. This isn’t just a philosophy it shows through data. “”The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management showed that the academic achievement gap for black children increased as they spent time in segregated schools. Schools with large numbers of black and Latino kids are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, instructional materials and adequate facilities”” (Hannah-Jones). Separate is never equal, so it is clear not enough was done to desegregate.

A symptom of America not having a federal school system, is that communities all across the country handle schools differently. So, in the same country we have examples of schools systems that aren’t segregated and run well, but also districts that are actively trying to re-segregate their schools. Jefferson County where there was a campaign to create a new school district, coincidently for wealthier and whiter neighborhoods. In fact, “”Laws in 30 states explicitly allow communities to form their own public-school systems, and since 2000, at least 71 communities across the country… have sought to break away.”” On the opposite side of the spectrums them are systems like [I am going to talk about a school system that Hannah-Jones, Nikole talked about on a podcast that is not segregated, and most families get to send their child to one of their top choices but I can’t remember the name of it and have to re-listen to the podcast] This is part of the gamble of America, because if we have a national school system we wouldn’t have the highs of [school district that works well], but we also wouldn’t have the lows of Jefferson County.

As a country letting minority students go by not getting the level of education white students are is a disservice. This is not a piece speaking about private schools. Public schooling is provided by our government, and seen as right, is still being used to discriminate against minority students. Not only is this another way to oppress minorities It also harms America by leaving a group of its citizens less educated than it could. From the start of our country systems have been set in place to disenfranchise and sperate minorities from white people. This means that desegregating schools will not be a simple or easy process.

Works Cited

Chang, Alvin. “”The Data Proves That School Segregation Is Getting Worse.”” Vox, Vox, 5 Mar. 2018,

Hannah-Jones, Nikole. “”Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City.”” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 June 2016,

Hannah-Jones, Nikole. “”The Resegregation of Jefferson County.”” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Sept. 2017,

“”Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court.”” How a Dissent Can Presage a Ruling: The Case of… |, Street Law, Inc,


Conover, Adam, narrator. “”Nikole Hannah-Jones on the Rippling Effects of Redlining and Segregation.”” Adam Ruins Everything, Podcasts app, 4 October 2017.

Harris, Fred, and Alan Curtis. “”The Unmet Promise of Equality.”” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2018,

“”How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students.”” The Century Foundation, 3 Apr. 2017,

Illing, Sean. “”‘Schools Are Segregated Because White People Want Them That Way.'”” Vox, Vox, 26 Oct. 2017,

Misra, Tanvi. “”Nikole Hannah-Jones Takes On the Myths of Segregation.”” CityLab, CityLab, 13 Oct. 2017,

Rodrigue, Edward, and Richard V. Reeves. “”Five Bleak Facts on Black Opportunity.”” Brookings, Brookings, 15 Aug. 2017,

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