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1960 - Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges goes to school - as the first black student to attend an all-white school, 6 year old Ruby Bridges is escorted by US Marshalls during her first year at William Frantz Elementary in Louisiana

Bridges was one of six black children in New Orleans to pass the test that determined whether they could go to the school. Two of the six decided to stay at their old school, Bridges went to a school by herself, and three children were transferred to McDonogh No. 19 and became known as the McDonogh Three. Bridges and her mother were escorted to school by four federal marshals during the first year Bridges attended William Frantz Elementary.


Ruby's father was initially reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education but to "take this step forward ... for all African-American children". As Bridges describes it, "Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras." Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, "She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we're all very very proud of her."

As soon as Bridges entered the school, white parents pulled their own children out; all the teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Only one person agreed to teach Ruby and that was Barbara Henry, from Boston, Massachusetts, and for over a year Henry taught her alone, "as if she were teaching a whole class."

That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal's office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. On the second day, however, a white student broke the boycott and entered the school when a 34-year-old Methodist minister, Lloyd Anderson Foreman, walked his 5-year-old daughter Pam through the angry mob, saying, "I simply want the privilege of taking my child to school ..." A few days later, other white parents began bringing their children, and the protests began to subside. Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her; because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, allowed Ruby to eat only the food that she brought from home.

The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary: her father lost his job, the grocery store the family shopped at would no longer let them shop there, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. She has noted that many others in the community, both black and white, showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests, a neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people babysat, watched the house as protectors, and walked behind the federal marshals' car on the trips to school.


Further Reading


ThoughtCo - Ruby Bridges: Six-Year-Old Hero of the Civil Rights Movement

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1960 - Battle for Algiers

Battle for Algiers as de Gaulle gets closer to granting independence for Algeria, a pro-French insurrection breaks out in Algiers, with civilians throwing up barricades in the streets and seizing control of government buildings. The insurrection ended quickly, but tensions remained high between pro and anti-independence factions.

From 1958 to 1959, the French army won military control in Algeria and was the closest it would be to victory. However, opposition to the conflict was growing among the population in France, and the insurgents still posed a serious threat to any sort of peace.  By 1959, it was clear that the status quo was untenable and France could either grant Algeria independence or allow real equality with the Muslims.

In a September 16, 1959, statement, de Gaulle dramatically reversed his anti-independence stand and uttered the words "self-determination" as a preferred solution, which he envisioned as leading to majority rule in an Algeria formally associated with France.  

Convinced that de Gaulle had betrayed them, some units of European volunteers (Unités Territoriales) in Algiers staged an insurrection in the Algerian capital starting on January 24, 1960, and known in France as La semaine des barricades ("the week of barricades"). The ultras incorrectly believed that they would be supported by General Massu, and as the army, police, and supporters stood by, civilian pieds-noirs threw up barricades in the streets and seized government buildings. General Maurice Challe, responsible for the army in Algeria, declared Algiers under siege, but forbade the troops to fire on the insurgents. Nevertheless, 20 rioters were killed during shooting on Boulevard Laferrière. 

In Paris on January 29, 1960, de Gaulle called on his ineffective army to remain loyal and rallied popular support for his Algerian policy in a televised address. Most of the Army heeded his call, and the siege of Algiers ended on February 1 .

Tensions in Algiers simmered for the rest of the year, boiling over in December as large-scale popular uprisings overcame French military oppression and changed the course of the Algerian revolution. The colonised population, including the elderly and a vanguard of women and children from thousands of "bidonvilles" (shanty towns) and segregated quarters, converged on colonial cities throughout Algeria, with flags, banners and fists raised in the air. Reprisals, as usual, were brutal - but they did not succeed in quelling the insurgency.

On 1 December 1960, it was announced that a referendum on Algerian self-determination would be held on 8 January 1961.  Spontaneous uprisings and unrest continued to break out, but on 1 July 1962 Algeria finally achieved independence. 



Further Reading


Middle East Eye - Algeria's Independence: The Forgotten Protests that Forged a Nation

Washington Post - France Acknowledges Using Torture in Algeria

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