Barbara Henry

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Barbara Henry
Barbara Henry.jpg
Barbara Henry with Ruby Bridges
Born (1932-01-01) January 1, 1932 (age 87)
West Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
EducationBoston Latin Academy
Years active1960; retired
Known forTeaching Ruby Bridges in William Frantz Elementary School

Barbara Henry (born January 1, 1932)[1] is a retired American teacher most notable for teaching Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to attend the all-white William Frantz Elementary School, located in New Orleans.

Henry had gone to Girls' Latin School in Boston, where “we learned… to appreciate and enjoy our important commonalities, amid our external differences of class, community, or color.” She had taught in overseas military dependents' schools, which were integrated.[2] Henry and her husband had been in New Orleans for two months when the superintendent called to offer her a teaching position. When Henry asked if the job was in a school that would be integrated, the superintendent replied, “Would that make any difference to you?” She said no.[3]

On the first day of the school year in 1960, Henry's and Bridges' relentless refusal to be intimidated caused them to become renowned figures in the American civil rights struggle. As soon as Bridges got into the school, white parents went in and brought their own children out; all but one of the white teachers also refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Only Barbara Henry was willing to teach Bridges, and for more than a year Mrs. Henry taught her alone, "as if she were teaching a whole class." That first day, Ruby 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. Ruby Bridges was initially apprehensive upon meeting Henry for the first time, recalling later that "I had never seen a white teacher before, but Mrs. Henry was the nicest teacher I ever had. She tried very hard to keep my mind off what was going on outside. But I couldn't forget that there were no other kids."[4]

The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, was commemorated by Norman Rockwell in the painting The Problem We All Live With.[5]


  1. ^ Henry, Barbara; Helman, Scott (June 27, 2014). "Teaching Ruby Bridges". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  2. ^ "Barbara Henry Addresses the School". Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2011. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ MacDonald, Bridget (January 20, 2010). "West Roxbury's Barbara Henry taught Ruby Bridges during Civil Rights era". Roslindale Transcript: 103. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  4. ^ McCluskey, Eileen (2002). "Ruby Bridges evokes tears, smiles as she tells her tale". Harvard University Gazette (April 25, 2002). Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  5. ^ Hunter-Gault, Charlayne (February 18, 1997). "A Class of One: A Conversation with Ruby Bridges Hall". Online PBS NewsHour.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bridges Hall, Ruby. Through My Eyes, Scholastic Press, 1999. (ISBN 0590189239)
  • Coles, Robert. The Story of Ruby Bridges, Scholastic Press, 1995. (ISBN 0590572814)
  • Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley in Search of America, Viking Adult, 1962. (ISBN 0670725080)
  • The Unfinished Agenda of Brown v. Board of Education, John Wiley & Sons, 2004. (ISBN 0471649260)
  • "The Courage to Learn. (Ruby Bridges and teacher Barbara Henry) (Interview)", Instructor (1990), August 1, 2001, Renwick, Lucille

External links[edit]