lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

R is for Ruby Bridges, first black child in a white school, #AtoZ Challenge

By Uncredited DOJ photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s blog is by the other fellow author of my book, Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, the wonderful and talented Michaela Morgan:

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The poem My First Day at School, by Michaela Morgan, commemorates Ruby Bridges, who, at the age of six, made the historic walk towards her local elementary school as the first black child to enter a school previously denied to black children.

She had to be marched in surrounded by US marshals to protect her from the angry mob, and for some time was the only child taught in the school, as other parents kept their children out of school rather than send them to a non-segregated establishment.

Ruby Bridges is now a grandmother. She continues to make her voice and presence felt in the fight for human rights.

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My First Day at School

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I remember . . .

Momma scrubbed my face, hard.

Plaited my hair, tight.

Perched a hopeful white bow on my head,

Like a butterfly hoping for flight.

She shone my shoes, black, shiny, neat.

Another hopeful bow, on each toe,

To give wings to my feet.

My dress was standing to attention, stiff with starch.

My little battledress.

And now, my march.

Two marshals march in front of me.

Two marshals march behind of me.

The people scream and jeer at me.

Their faces are red, not white.

The marshals tower above me, a grey-legged wall.

Broad of back, white of face and tall, tall, tall.

I only see their legs and shoes as black and shiny as

mine.

They march along, stern and strong. I try to march in

time.

One hisses to another, ‘Slow down it ain’t a race.

She only take little bitty girlie steps.’

I quicken my pace.

Head up.

Eyes straight.

I march into school.

To learn like any other kid can.

And maybe to teach a lesson too.

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© Michaela Morgan

Appears in Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls.

 

If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!

Facts:

The above facts and poem appear in Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women  and Girls, Pub. Macmillan Books.

Image – Wikipedia

16 Comments

  1. This little girl must have been so frightened along with her parents knowing how ignorant and violent regular folk could be. This girl had to deal with so much and I bet some of the teachers were horrible as well. She earns my respect because she is one brave person.

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    • Wasn’t she just – and her parent. Yes, i’ve often wondered how she was treated in that classroom and about all the little things that must have added up over the hours, days, weeks ahead of her.

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  2. It gives me a sad feeling to think such a heavy burden was placed on that small child’s shoulders. No adult could have handled such stress.

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    • Many adults have faced the fight against what must have seemed overwhelming odds – Rosa Parks, and the countless men and women who have stood up to racism over the years – there’s an account about Ida b. Wells for instance further down my front page if you click on ‘liz Brownlee poet’ it should take you to the blog page which has her on, scroll down. She was 70 years earlier than Rosa Parks and refused to give up her paid first class seat on a train. I would moot that this little girl really had little idea of the step she was taking – an adult would realise the possible consequences much more clearly.

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  3. I really gives me a sad feeling to think how a little child would have taken the burden of discrimination..But truly inspiring to fight all odds and start going to school

    Launching SIM Organics This April
    *Menaka Bharathi *
    *SimpleIndianMom*

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  4. I saw a TV movie about Ruby Bridges many years back. She was such a shero, though she considered herself just another kid, someone trying to go to school. Having gone to a junior high and one high school which were about 50% African-American, it’s hard to imagine a time when schools were segregated.

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    • It is. It’s inconceivable. I’d like to have seen that.

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  5. I think she taught everyone a lesson. She must have been so brave – a real trailblazer.

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    • She must have felt very alone in that classroom.

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  6. Thea O'Brian

    Such great posts for this blogging challenge this year. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow is.
    http://enchantedfantasies.blogspot.com/

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  7. Couldn’t her parents have found at least one other child to face it with her?

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    • It was a huge fight to get her to that school. ‘The authorities’ decreed that only if black children could pass a very hard exam would they be ‘able’ enough to attend a white school. Her father didn’t want her to go through the test, her mum pressed for it knowing she would get a better education at a white school. Ruby was one of only six children who passed. Still the authorities fought and fought finding ways to keep her out – but at last they had played their last card and she was allowed to attend – but with protection. That is why she was on her own.

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  8. Pikakshi

    I keep wondering how curious and confused that little girl must have been — seeing people react to her the way they did, marshals accompanying her, an angry mob yelling at her, students boycotting the classes– that’s a lot to take in for a kid! No wonder it must have left a mark on her and pushed her to work for the female black community.
    Its a lovely post and very informative!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Research is very important, but how much research do writers put in?

    Regards,
    Pikakshi
    Readers of the Night

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