Year
1960
Month Day
November 14

Ruby Bridges desegregates her school

On November 14, 1960, a court order mandating the desegregation of schools comes into effect in New Orleans, Louisiana. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges walks into William Frantz Elementary School, accompanied by federal marshals and taunted by angry crowds, instantly becoming a symbol of the civil rights movement, an icon for the cause of racial equality and a target for racial animosity.

The Supreme Court ordered the end of segregated public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education just a few months before Bridges was born, but it was not until after her kindergarten year that the City of New Orleans finally assented to desegregation. African American children in New Orleans were given a test, and only those who passed were allowed to enroll in all-white public schools. Bridges passed the test and became the only one of the six eligible students to go ahead with desegregating Frantz Elementary. Her father opposed the idea at first, but Bridges’ mother convinced him that sending Ruby to Frantz was both right for their daughter and an important moment for all African Americans. Bridges entered the school along with her mother and several marshals on November 14, and images of the small child and her escorts walking calmly through crowds of rabid segregationists spread across the country. Bridges later recalled that she had initially thought the crowds were there to celebrate Mardi Gras.

READ MORE: Brown v. Board of Education: The First Step in the Desegregation of America’s Schools

Bridges did not attend any classes on November 14 due to the chaos outside the school. No other students attended and all but one teacher, Barbara Henry, stayed home in protest of desegregation. It was several days until a white father finally broke the boycott and brought his son to school, and even when the white students returned, they were kept separate from the school’s lone Black student. Henry, whom Bridges said was the first white teacher and “the nicest teacher I ever had,” taught a class consisting of only Bridges for the entire school year. Federal marshaled continued to escort her to school for that time, and crowds chanting racial slurs and making death threats continued to greet Bridges for months. 

Bridges’ family suffered enormously—her father lost his job, her sharecropper grandparents were kicked off of their land and her parents eventually separated—but they also received support in the form of gifts, donations, a new job offer for her father, and even pro-bono security services from friends, neighbors and people around the country. The following year, the school became further integrated, and Bridges attended class with both Black and white children without major incident. Today, Bridges remains a household name and an icon of the civil rights movement.

READ MORE: The 8-Year-Old Chinese-American Girl Who Helped Desegregate Schools—in 1885

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Apollo 12 lifts off

Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr.; Richard F. Gordon, Jr.; and Alan L. Bean aboard. President Richard Nixon viewed the liftoff from Pad A at Cape Canaveral. He was the ...read more

Herman Melville publishes “Moby-Dick”

Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest to catch a giant white whale was a flop. Its author, Herman Melville ...read more

Ottoman Empire declares a holy war

On November 14, 1914, in Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, the religious leader Sheikh-ul-Islam declares an Islamic holy war on behalf of the Ottoman government, urging his Muslim followers to take up arms against Britain, France, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro in ...read more

Major battle erupts in the Ia Drang Valley

In the first major engagement of the war between regular U.S. and North Vietnamese forces, elements of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) fight a pitched battle with Communist main-force units in the Ia Drang Valley of the Central Highlands. On this morning, Lt. ...read more

Plane crash devastates Marshall University football team

On November 14, 1970, a chartered jet carrying most of the Marshall University football team clips a stand of trees and crashes into a hillside just two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia, killing everyone onboard.The team was returning from that day’s ...read more

Frank Leslie kills Billy “The Kid” Claiborne

The gunslinger Frank “Buckskin” Leslie shoots the Billy “The Kid” Claiborne dead in the streets of Tombstone, Arizona. The town of Tombstone is best known today as the site of the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. In the 1880s, however, Tombstone was home to many gunmen who ...read more

Cary Grant stars in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion”

On November 14, 1941, Suspicion, a romantic thriller starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, makes its debut. The film, which earned a Best Picture Academy Award nomination and a Best Actress Oscar for Fontaine, marked the first time that Grant, ...read more

Volcano erupts in Colombia and buries nearby towns

On November 14, 1985, a volcano erupts in Colombia, killing well over 20,000 people as nearby towns are buried in mud, ice and lava. The Nevado del Ruiz volcano is situated in the north-central part of Colombia. Over the centuries, various eruptions caused the formation of large ...read more

United States gives military and economic aid to communist Yugoslavia

In a surprising turn of events, President Harry Truman asks Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia. The action was part of the U.S. policy to drive a deeper wedge between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia ended World War II ...read more

Last day for Texas’ celebrated drive-in Pig Stands

On November 14, 2006, state officials close the last two of Texas’ famed Pig Stand restaurants, the only remaining pieces of the nation’s first drive-in restaurant empire. The restaurants’ owners were bankrupt, and they owed the Texas comptroller more than $200,000 in unpaid ...read more

English newspaper announces Benjamin Franklin has joined rebellion in America

On November 14, 1776, the St. James Chronicle of London carries an item announcing “The very identical Dr. Franklyn [Benjamin Franklin], whom Lord Chatham [former leading parliamentarian and colonial supporter William Pitt] so much caressed, and used to say he was proud in ...read more