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In Through My Eyes, Ruby Bridges recounts her experience in 1960 as the first black student at the William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bridges recalls her confusion at the angry crowds outside her school, her isolation as the only student in her classroom, and the bond she formed with her first grade teacher. Ruby’s story is complimented with newspaper quotes, recollections of her family and friends, and dramatic photographs of the events that unfolded in New Orleans. Her recollections combined with the historic photographs bring her story to life and allows children to place themselves in Ruby’s shoes.
Bridges’ autobiography is unique in that it preserves much of her childhood innocence and presents the topic of integration from a child’s perspective. Her recollections truly demonstrate a young child’s confusion over segregation. For example, Bridges recalls thinking the noise generated from the chanting and jeering outside her school were part of carnival at Mardiis Gras. She also remembers believing the chant “Two Four Six Eight, We don’t want to integrate” was a jump rope song that she decided to play with her neighborhood friends. Bridges’ ability to recall her childhood thoughts combined with striking imagery serve as a stepping stone prompting children to ask “What would I have done?” or “How would I have felt about that?”
While the autobiography focuses on Bridges’ personal experience, she broadens her narrative to include other families in New Orleans fighting segregation. Bridges highlights the Gabrielles, a white family who faced criticism from their neighbors and friends because they supported school integration. She also mentions three other black girls, Leona, Tessie, and Gail, who were integrating the elementary school, McDonogh No. 19 at the same time. The inclusion of these stories presents a broader picture of school integration moving it away from an isolated incident to a larger issue.
The autobiography serves as an excellent introduction to the civil rights movement, segregation, and the integration of public schools in American history. The straight forward and succinct writing style makes the narrative easy to read and engaging to readers of all ages. The length of the narrative and the subject matter, however, makes it best suited for grades 4-7. Just as compelling are the dramatic photographs that enable the reader to visualize the events that unfolded in New Orleans.
Bridges, Ruby, Through My Eyes, New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.