In 1956 U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools. After a series of appeals, in 1960, Wright set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade. The School Board issued a test to black kindergartners to determine the best candidates. Six-year old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected. Four agreed to proceed. On November 14, Bridges integrated the William Frantz Public School. In retaliation, white parents withdrew her classmates and Bridges's father was fired from his job. Ruby completed the first grade alone with the support of Barbara Henry, a Boston teacher, and Dr. Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist. Ruby's walk to school the first day, escorted by U.S. Marshals, inspired the 1964 Norman Rockwell painting, "The Problem We All Live With."
The "deliberate speed" called for in the Supreme Court's Brown decision was quickly overshadowed by events outside the nation's courtrooms. In Montgomery, Alabama, a grassroots revolt against segregated public transportation inspired a multitude of similar protests and boycotts. A number of school districts in the Southern and border states desegregated peacefully. Elsewhere, white resistance to school desegregation resulted in open defiance and violent confrontations.
OPENING TEXT CREDIT: Brown v. Board at Fifty