Travels with Charley - Ruby Bridges and Desegregation

Download "Ruby Bridges and Desegregation" as a Word file

Discipline

History, Language Arts, Art

Grade Level

6 – 12

Type of Activity

Small Group, Research, Analysis

Objectives

  • Students will understand the historical background to the school integration scene in Part Four of Travels with Charley.

Overview

On November 14, 1960 six year old Ruby Bridges was the first African American child to attend William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was escorted by U.S. Marshalls for her protection and to enforce the integration of the school. Ruby walked a gauntlet of angry white parents, teenagers, students, and community members.

Hearing about this, John Steinbeck decided to come and witness it for himself. He did not know the name of the brave little girl he watched walk up the steps of the school, but he wrote his impressions of her and described in vivid detail what he witnessed that day. This scene, and the few that follow, is one of the most powerful in Travels with Charley.

In this activity, students will examine the history behind this event and Steinbeck’s portrayal of it.

Materials Needed/Preparation

Estimated Time

  • 2 class periods

Procedures

  • Day 1: Reacting to and analyzing the text
    • Consider giving students the Ruby Bridges Analysis Organizer as an advance organizer a day ahead of time.
    • Re-read either silently or as a class page 189-196 (Ruby Bridges and the Cheerleaders).
      • Journal topic (consider distributing a conversation map or the organizer to help students)
        • How does this make you feel? Use quotes from the text to help explain why.
        • How did Steinbeck feel about this event? Quote passages from the text that support your thoughts.
      • Have students pair-share their thoughts.
      • Have students share their thoughts with the class.
    • Discussion: What do students know about desegregation during the 1950s and 1960s?
      • If needed, have students read “Ruby Bridges and School Desegregation” (from the Steinbeck in the Schools website) to fill in their knowledge base.
  • Day 2: Analyzing depictions of the event
    • Ruby Bridges Goes to School
      • Consider having students watch the video “Ruby Bridges Goes to School” as homework the night before.
      • Prior to showing the video, give students the following objectives:
        • Distribute the analysis organizer (optional)
        • Compare and contrast Steinbeck’s descriptions with what they see in the archival footage in the video.
        • Look for specific examples of how Ruby was treated and how the Cheerleaders acted.
      • Show the video “Ruby Bridges Goes to School”
        • Allow students time to complete their organizers or to write notes
        • Have students pair-share their thoughts and findings
        • Have students share their thoughts with the class
      • The Problem We All Live With
        • Consider having students view the painting and watch the brief clip about Ruby Bridges on Biography.com as homework the night before
        • Handout and/or display “The Problem We All Live With”
          • Allow students some time to view the painting
          • Ask them to simply look for things that they notice about the image
        • View the brief video on Biography.com
        • Display the image again and ask students to make note of things they see in the image and what those things mean to them.
          • Students may need a t-chart to help organize their ideas
        • Have students pair-share their thoughts and findings
        • Have students share their thoughts with the class
          • Additional topic of discussion: how does Rockwell’s painting compare to Steinbeck’s writing? To the archival footage in “Ruby Bridges Goes to School”?

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Post Activity
  • Takeaways
    • This activity is meant to help students to put the events depicted by Steinbeck into historical context. Students should see that six years after the Brown decision, segregation was still a painful reality in many parts of the South.
  • Follow-up
    • After the class has completed reading the book, discuss how the events examined in this exercise fit into the broader theme of what it means to be an American.

Assessment

  • How well did students support their comparison of Steinbeck’s writing and the archival footage?
  • How well did students support their analysis of Rockwell’s painting?

Standards Met

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
    • Craft and Structure: 4, 5
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7, 9
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
    • Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7, 8
  • Writing Standards 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2
    • Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 8, 9
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2, 3
    • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 4
  • Language Standards 6-12
    • Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
    • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 5
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
    • Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7, 8
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2
    • Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 8