NEW ORLEANS — Ruby Bridges didn't ask to be an icon of the civil rights movement; others made that happen.
She was, after all, just six in 1960 when the NAACP selected her to integrate a New Orleans elementary school.
An angry mob tried to keep her out, but federal marshals got her in.
And Norman Rockwell made the moment famous in a 1964 painting.
Forty-six years later, after Katrina flooded the city, devastated the school and triggered a new round of racial upheaval, Ruby Bridges is back, this time on her own accord — to save the school.
Even before Katrina, William Frantz Elementary in the Lower Ninth Ward was in danger of closing.
“I used to go to the back to sharpen my pencil, there,” says Bridges as she takes us on a tour. “I see this school being filled with kids.”
But there's more. Bridges wants to integrate the school — again.
“Race is still an issue in our country,” she says.
Over time, New Orleans’ public schools went from all white to almost entirely black.
“I think that it's not just about having equal rights, I mean, that's important, but it's also about allowing our children an opportunity to get to know one another,” says Bridges.
Bridges wants to attract all races by making the school the best in the city. And she's started a foundation to help.
“I'm just a visionary, and I look for people who believe in my vision,” she says.
In the library, where all of the books suffered water damage, she finds copies of her own book “Through My Eyes.”
She rescues it, just as she one day hopes to rescue the school where she was neither welcomed nor wanted.
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