California’s state Senate has proclaimed Nov. 14 as Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day statewide, honoring the civil rights activist who was the first Black student to desegregate her all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960.

The Senate voted unanimously Friday on Senate Resolution 59, which was introduced by Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park. The resolution was coauthored by 18 other senators of both parties.

Becker introduced the resolution in August, pushing forward the efforts of fifth grade students at Martin Elementary School in South San Francisco.

The students of Deborah Carlino’s fifth grade class at Martin Elementary had been campaigning for recognition of a Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day for over three years.

On Nov. 14, 1960, Bridges, six years old at the time, helped integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. As the first and only black student to attend the school at the time, U.S. marshals escorted Bridges and her mother to school as people yelled in protest.

After learning about Bridges during Black History Month and realizing that there was no Ruby Bridges Day, the students wanted to find a way to recognize Bridges’ contributions, according to Carlino.

They collected over 1,000 signatures on a petition to create a Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day.

They persuaded the South San Francisco Unified School District Board, the San Mateo County Board of Education, the South San Francisco City Council and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to recognize Bridges.

Then they set their sights on statewide recognition.

YouTube video
(Video courtesy of San Mateo County Office of Education/YouTube)

Democracy in action

Carlino’s class watched the Senate sessions live last week, anticipating Friday’s vote.

Schools in San Mateo County and California have already been recognizing Nov. 14 as Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day.

In 2019, Martin Elementary held their second annual Ruby Bridges Day celebration, as students and community leaders gathered to walk to school together.

Now that the students have brought their campaign to the state, their next step is to garner national recognition for Bridges.

“My wish is that we will have a national walk to school day for Ruby and that children will be the leaders,” Carlino said in a statement.

Becker said in a statement that Bridges is a role model for youth and has inspired generations to stand up for civil rights. He said he was proud to help the fifth-grade students advance their campaign.

“The fifth-graders taught by Deborah Carlino at Martin Elementary School in my district have taken Ruby’s legacy to heart. They are working to gain widespread and increasing recognition for Ruby, who when she was just 6 years old walked to school day after day amid angry mobs spewing racial epithets and other hate speech,” Becker said.

The measure will take place once it is filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office.

The San Mateo County Office of Education has more information about Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day in San Mateo County.