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Black History Essay Contest Winner: Aaliyah Trice

Aaliyah Trice
Aaliyah Trice

This spring we're airing the winning entries from the Black History Essay Contest, sponsored by the City of Bloomington and its Human Relations Commission.

Here is the essay from second-place elementary school winner Aaliyah Trice from Irving Elementary School. Learn more about the other winners and the Human Relations Commission.

"Ruby Bridges is an African American civil rights activist. Bridges was born on Sept. 8, 1954. She was the oldest of five children. On Nov. 14, 1960, Ruby Bridges went to a white children's school called William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. She was afraid but didn’t show it. She walked through a crowd with federal marshals on the sides of her. There were white people yelling at her, saying threats, and protesting that she shouldn't be there..but she kept on walking. She entered the school and walked down the hallway going to her classroom seeing no children, no laughter, no yelling, nothing. When she entered her classroom, the only person there was a teacher named Barbara Henry. Everyday Ruby would go to school and hear all the horrible things said to her and she would walk inside and learn.

Towards the end of the school year children started coming back but they weren't learning with Ruby they were with another teacher away from Ruby. The principal took the kids and hid them away from Ruby so they wouldn't see her. Barbara went up to the principal and asked “Why aren't the kids with Ruby?” “Because the teacher doesn't want to teach Ruby,” answered the principal. Then Barbara said “I'll teach the kids then” and she did.

One day when Ruby was at recess, a white little boy said “I can't play with you because my mom said not to.” Ruby understood where he was coming from. She said that if her mom told her not to play with him because he is white, Asain, Indian, or Hispanic she wouldn't have played with him either. Ruby said in one of her speeches that when the little boy told her he wasn’t allowed to play with her, that’s when she knew why she didn’t see any other school children or teachers, and why there was a mob outside. It was all because she was black.

Ruby said she would never forget anything that happened to her. Ruby stated that her mother would pray for her from the time she went in the school to the time she came out. That’s how serious and scary the situation was. “Thank god for the teacher that was there. She was my best friend. She taught me the lesson that Martin Luther King Jr tried to teach to each and every one of us. That you should never judge someone by the color of their skin.”

After Ruby finished school she went on to be an activist and author. In 1999 she formed the Ruby Bridges foundation. Her foundation promotes “the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences.” Ruby Bridges inspired me to stick up for what’s right and what’s wrong and to be brave in the darkest times. Ruby Bridges challenged the status quo by integrating the school in her state and her actions changed America. She is an important piece of history."