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Once a symbol of desegregation, Ruby Bridges’ school now reflects another battle engulfing public education

Connie Schaffer, Martha Viator, and Meg White – The Conversation |

On Nov. 14, 1960, after a long summer and autumn of volleys between the Louisiana Legislature and the federal courts, Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old Black girl, was allowed to enroll in an all-white school. Accompanied by federal marshals, Bridges entered William Frantz Public School – a small neighborhood school in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward.

If that building’s walls could talk, they certainly would tell the well-known story of its desegregation. But those same walls could tell another story, too. That story is about continued racism as well as efforts to dismantle and privatize public education in America over the past six decades.

The fate of Ruby Bridges’ historic school is a stark indicator that the public education system she fought to integrate as a little girl may be a relic of the past.

Connie L. Schaffer is Associate Professor of Teacher Education, University of Nebraska Omaha, Martha Graham Viator is Associate Professor Emeritus of Education, Rowan University, and Meg White is Associate Professor of Education, Stockton University.