Getty Images
Getty Images

"Ruby's Shoes"

Getty Images
Getty Images

“Ruby’s Shoes”
Written by Lori McKenna (1989)
Performed by Lori McKenna

The Music

When singer-songwriter Lori McKenna’s son was in second grade, he did a book report on Ruby Bridges, the African-American elementary school student who famously crossed the desegregation lines in 1960.

To help her son, McKenna came up with a song about Ruby. “I actually wrote that for his extra credit,” McKenna said. “It was his oral presentation of that book report. He got an A, by the way. That song has just been so good to me, because I ended up meeting Ruby Bridges, and she came and met my kids.”

McKenna also got to play the song on Oprah in 2005, which made it a viral hit on iTunes, and brought attention to both McKenna and Bridges.

Here’s Lori McKenna’s recording of the song:

The History

Ruby Bridges was born in 1954, the same year that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision that schools must desegregate. The ruling was made in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. Thirteen African-American parents in Topeka filed suit on behalf of their children, who were being made to travel extra miles just to attend their segregated schools. Of course, behind the practical matter of distance was the more urgent issue of civil rights.

For 60 years preceding the Brown case, segregation in schools in the U.S. had been informed by another Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson. That 1896 ruling held that as long as the separate facilities for separate races were equal, segregation didn’t violate the Fourteenth Amendment (“no State shall . . . deny any person . . the equal protection of the laws.”) But many of the facilities were not equal. Often, the black schools were housed in run-down buildings, and prone to regular shortages of everything from books to supplies to qualified teachers.

When Ruby Bridges was two, her parents moved the family from Mississippi to New Orleans, in search of better jobs. In 1959, Ruby started kindergarten in a segregated school. The Supreme Court ruling was still a year away from becoming law in Louisiana.

As she prepared to begin first grade, Ruby was one of six black children given the opportunity to attend an all-white school. In the end, she would be the only one who took the chance.

Educating Ruby

USMarshals.gov

Initially, Ruby’s parents disagreed on the matter. Ruby’s mother wanted her daughter to have the advantages that she never had. But with the opposition to desegregation roiling through the south, her father worried about endangering the family. Finally, he agreed that his daughter’s education should come first.

On the morning of November 14, 1960, Ruby and her mother approached William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. They were escorted by four Federal Marshals. Local police and officials had been unwilling to ensure Ruby’s safety. Crowds of protesters waved signs and chanted, “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.”

Ruby didn’t realize that she was making history. She has said, “People were waving their hands and yelling. I remember police officers being on horseback and motorcycles. So I actually thought I was in the midst of a parade. I thought it was Mardi Gras that day.”

She spent most of that first day in the principal’s office, while chaos rippled around and through the school. Only one courageous and compassionate teacher in the school was willing to take her on as a student. So that year, Ruby was in a class of one with Mrs. Barbara Henry. They did lessons together and played games inside at recess. They bonded as student and teacher, and as friends.

Meanwhile, Ruby’s family suffered for their courage. Her dad lost his job. Her mom was shunned by some store owners. And her grandparents were evicted from a farm in Mississippi where they’d been sharecroppers for 25 years.

As time passed, desegregation became more accepted, and Ruby eventually graduated from a fully integrated high school in New Orleans.

Today, Ruby Bridges Hall is a civil rights icon and activist. She’s received a Presidential Citizen’s medal. There’s an elementary school named after her in California. And since 1999, she has run the Ruby Bridges Foundation, whose motto is: “We believe racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

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