Ruby Bridges

Does the name sound familiar? Do you remember the story of the little black girl who went to an all-white school and she had to walk through protests on the way to school every day? Let me enlighten you.


Born on September 8, 1954 in Mississippi to Lucille and Abon Bridges, Ruby Bridges would make history as the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South. Born in to poverty and the oldest of five children, she and her family would move to New Orleans in 1959.

The ruling of Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas would end racial segregation in public schools. However, southern states would continue to resist integration well in to the 21st century. The last school to desegregate was Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Mississippi in 2016.

In 1960, a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate. The school district the Bridges family was living in created entrance exams for African American students to see whether they could compete academically with their Caucasian counterparts.

That year, Ruby was one of only six students to pass the exam. She was the only one that would be attending the all-white school of William Frantz Elementary School. Her father had opposed to her attending an all-white school, but her mother was able to convince him to let her enroll.

Her first day of school was November 14, 1960. However, her first day was spent sitting in the principal’s office while white parents were withdrawing their children from the school. The next day, she was able to start her schooling in a class size of one with the only teacher in the whole school who was willing to teach her, Barbara Henry, a white Boston native. She ate lunch alone and played at recess alone, but never missed a day of school that year.

During this time, Ruby was seeing a child psychologist, Robert Coles, who studied the reaction of young children toward extreme stress or crisis. In 1995, he would write a children’s book called The Story of ruby Bridges.

Due to the amount of upset white people that protested Ruby’s enrollment in the school, she was assigned four federal marshals that would escort her and her mother to school every day that year. Every day, she would walk past crowds of white people screaming vicious slurs at her. Later in life, she said that the only time she was frightened was when she saw a woman holding a black baby doll in a coffin. The marshals would urge her to keep her eyes forward so she wouldn’t see the racist remarks on signs or the livid faces of the crowd.

The Bridges family suffered for their courage. Her father, Abon, lost his job and grocery stores would refuse to sell to her mother, Lucille. Even her grandparents were evicted from the farm where they had lived for a quarter-century.

The crowds outside the school would begin to thin toward the end of the year and by the following year the school enrolled several more black students. Many years later, her nieces would also attend William Frantz Elementary School.

“The Problem We All Face” (1963) Norman Rockwell

During Ruby’s second year at William Frantz Elementary, she no longer needed to be escorted by federal marshals. She walked to school on her own & was in a classroom with other students. Ruby had paved the way for other African American children.

Ruby would go on to graduate from a desegregated high school, become a travel agent, get married, and have four sons. In 1999, she established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change through education. She would also write a couple of books including a children’s book called Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (2009).

Today, at 67-year-old Ruby Bridges continues to be an activist in racial equality. There are two schools named after her, and there is a statue at William Frantz Elementary School dedicated to her. She was a symbol of the civil rights movement in her youth and now she is actively fighting for racial equality. She is a pillar of where the United States of America has come from and where it could go on to in the future.


References

National Women’s History Museum
Ruby Bridges
Hilbert College
Britannica

Sundown Towns

Sundown towns are cities or towns that are all-white on purpose. They use informal and formal means to keep African Americans or other people of color out of the city.

The name derives from the posted and verbal warnings issued to Blacks that although they might be allowed to work or travel in a community during the daytime, they must leave by sundown or risk threats, injury, and maybe even death.

African Americans were not the only minority group to be prohibited in sundown towns, it affected Jews, Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, and others.

History

Sundown towns didn’t exist before the Civil War, but precedents existed for the exclusion of free African Americans. Predominantly existing between 1890 and 1968, thousands of towns across the US drove out their black populations or took steps to forbid African Americans from living in them.

As early as 1843, Arkansas denied free African Americans entry into the state and in 1859, Arkansas required such persons to leave the state by January 1, 1860 or be sold in to slavery.

White mobs would actively attack black prisoners, dragging them from their prison cells. These actions would cause the black community to flee in fear of their own lives, often leaving their belongings behind.

Or the white mobs would actively go through the black neighborhoods, tie men to trees and whip them, burn several homes, and warn all African Americans to leave that night.

In 1930, the lynching of 2 black teens by a white mob in Marion, Indiana resulted in the town’s 200 black residents moving away never to return.

Recent History

Most sundown towns exist from the Mid-West to the West in many predominantly white communities. Even California had sundown towns, Glendale being one until as late as the 1990s.

A city that is less than 2% African American may indicate that there may have been a history of sundown town laws.

Black motorists have to be extra cautious when traveling long distances. Some towns and cities may not be very welcoming to them on their travels and they may find some businesses and hotels won’t service them. Even to this day.

Can you imagine being in a town and fearing for your life? You have to leave town before the sunsets or you’re no longer safe and welcome there. Most women today can relate to this sentiment. Not every city is safe for all Americans and that’s a terrifying thought.


References

Encyclopedia of Arkansas
FOX LA
Black Past

Other Information

BuzzFeed News

Henrietta Lacks

Our next topic of discussion is the immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Specifically about tissue samples that were taken without her consent in 1951 and how they have advanced medical research for us today. A story of consent and righting a medical wrong.

Henrietta Lacks (born Loretta Pleasant) was born on August 1, 1920 in Roanoke, VA. She married David Lacks in 1941 and in the ten years they were married, they had five children. Their family lived in Baltimore, Maryland.

In January 1951, Henrietta went to the John Hopkins Hospital, one of the only medical facilities in the area that treated African Americans, for vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. She was reported saying she felt like there was a knot in her womb. While in the hospital, Dr. Howard Jones, a gynecologist, discovered a large malignant tumor on Henrietta’s cervix.

Henrietta underwent radium treatments, the standard of the day, which involved stitching glass tubes of radium secured in fabric pouches to the cervix. During the procedure, the doctor took a couple tissue samples without Henrietta’s knowledge or consent, which at the time was an okay practice.

These tissue samples were sent to a lab run by physician George Gey, who was studying cancer tissue samples. Usually tissue samples didn’t last for a long duration of time, they normally deteriorated before significant tests could be run. However, not only had Henrietta’s cells survived the first day, they had nearly doubled within 24 hours. This meant that Henrietta’s cells were virtually immortal. They could survive on their own and duplicate every 20 to 24 hours.

Her cells were nicknamed HeLa cells for the first two letters of her first name and last name. Her cells went on to be used in medical and scientific research all over the world. They were even used to help the development of the polio and COVID-19 vaccines. There are over 10,000 patents are registered involving her cells.

The tragedy is that Henrietta Lacks died on October 4, 1951 after a couple months in the John Hopkins Hospital. Her autopsy showed that the cancer had spread to her entire body. Her legacy lives on in the cells that were taken and used in the medical field.

For almost twenty years, her family didn’t know of the existence of the HeLa cells until a batch of them were contaminated by other samples and the children of Henrietta were getting phone calls about giving blood samples for further research. Her family found out that not only were the cells taken without anyone’s knowledge or consent, but they were being shared all around the world, along with Henrietta’s personal information.

There was no compensation to the family for the use of the cells. I’m not even sure if that was exactly an issue for them other than the fact that these cells from their dead mother were just treated as a scientific commodity. As if they didn’t come from a living, breathing human with a family and a love for cooking.

To learn more about Henrietta Lacks and the legacy she left behind, there is a book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. There is a film based on Skloot’s book by the same name on HBO Max if you have access.


Henrietta Lacks Foundation

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation was established in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot and seeks to provide assistance to individuals and their families who have been directly impacted by research studies that were conducted on individuals without their knowledge or consent.


References

Biography
Britannica
Hopkins Medicine
Nature

AHC: Emmett Till

Our first topic of discussion for the American History Challenge is the murder of Emmett Till. His was not the first nor was it the last lynching, but he was one of the youngest victims at just 14 years old.

Born July 25, 1941 in Chicago, IL to Mamie Carthan Till-Mobley and Louis Till. He died on August 28, 1955 while visiting family in Money, Mississippi.

Emmett grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago and had attended a segregated elementary school. However, the level of segregation in Mississippi would be nothing like he encountered at home. His mother warned him to be careful because of his race. He loved pulling pranks.

He arrived in Money, Mississippi on August 21. He stayed with his great-uncle, Moses Wright. He spent his days helping with the cotton harvest.

On August 24, Emmett, his cousins, and some friends were outside a grocery store in Money. Emmett bragged that he had a white girlfriend back home. The others, not believing his claims, dared him to ask the white woman sitting behind the store counter for a date.

He went inside, bought some candy, and on the way out was heard saying, “Bye, baby” to the woman. There are other accounts that he may have flirted with her or touched the hand or waist of the woman. The woman alleged that he grabbed her, made lewd advances and wolf-whistled at her as he sauntered out. Whatever events had transpired, he hadn’t told his uncle about the encounter.

The 21-year-old white woman was Carolyn Bryant. She told her husband, Roy Bryant, about the alleged incident. Several nights later, in the early morning hours of August 28th, Roy and his half-brother J.W. Milam, went to Moses Wright’s house, forced their way in and abducted Emmett Till at gunpoint.

Bryant and Milam made Emmett carry a cotton gin fan down to the Tallahatchie River. They then proceeded to beat him close to death, gouge out one of his eyes, and put a single gunshot to the head. The two men tied the teen’s body to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire and dumped his corpse into the river.

Emmett’s uncle reported the kidnapping to the police and Bryant and Milam were arrested the following day. On August 31, 1955, Emmett’s corpse was discovered in the river. His face was so unrecognizable that positive identification was only able to be made because he was wearing a monogrammed ring that belonged to his father.

His body was sent back to Chicago via train. It arrived on September 2, less than two weeks after he had embarked on his journey south. Emmett’s mother kept his casket open so the world could see the brutality behind the lynching of a teenage boy.

The trial for Bryant and Milam began on September 19, 1955. They were identified by Emmett’s uncle on the stand. After four days of testimony and a little more than an hour of deliberation, the all-white, all-male jury acquitted Bryant and Milam of all charges, explaining the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Many people around the country were outraged by the decision.

In 2017, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony, admitting that what she had alleged was a lie. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she said.

Emmett Till’s death became a rallying point for civil rights activists across the country. Don’t think this was a long time ago. My grandma was born three years later and she’s still with us today. Emmett Till should still be with us today.


References

History.com
Britannica
The New York Times
AP News


Topics to Come…

Henrietta Lacks
Sundown Towns
Black Wall Street
and more…

If you have other topics you want me to research, please feel free to comment below or contact me. What has happened in your state or hometown that should be remembered in history? I want to know.

What is the American History Challenge?

The American History Challenge is a list of topics in the United States of America’s history that is not normally taught in school. It’s a list of topics that I will be going through, researching, and sharing with you. I hope it will make you want to learn more about these topics as well.

We can have a healthy discourse on these topics, especially if I have gotten some things wrong. I will be using the internet after all, but I will try my best to find good reputable sources. I don’t want to control the narrative, I want to learn more about it.

Here are some topics I have so far:

– Emmett Till
– Henrietta Lacks
– Sundown Towns
– red line areas in town
– Birth of a Nation and the KKK
– Black Wall Street
– Red Summer
– Mount Rushmore
– American Buffalo extinction
– American army and indigenous people’s horses
– Tuskegee study

If you have any suggestions for more topics, please feel free to contact me with your suggestions. You can leave comments in the posts but I will not tolerate any hate. If my research is incorrect, you can let me know as an adult human should, not as a whiny, terroristic baby. Thank you.

I look forward to sharing what I find out about these topics and more.

History of Diabetes

This is a short history of diabetes. From the times of the Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome to modern day, diabetes has been present throughout our history.

Diabetes mellitus comes from the words diabetes (Greek) meaning siphon, to pass through, and mellitus (Latin) honeyed or sweet. This is a reference to the excess sugar found in the blood and urine of someone with diabetes. In the 17th century, diabetes was known as the ‘pissing evil’ because of the excessive urination and thirst.

It was first recorded in English in a medical text around 1425 though the symptoms of diabetes were recorded as far back as Ancient Egypt. In the Middle Ages, diabetes was believed to be a disease of the kidneys, but in the late 18th century they found it occurred in people who experienced an injury to the pancreas. Before proper research and treatment, when someone had symptoms of diabetes it was often thought as a death sentence as they would often die within weeks or months of symptoms appearing.

In 1889, Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski discovered the role of the pancreas in diabetes through research with dogs. They would remove the pancreases of multiple dogs and observe the symptoms of diabetes develop in the dogs before they passed away.

In 1910, Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer found that diabetes was a result from a lack of insulin.

In 1919, Dr. Frederick Allen introduced a therapy of strict dieting or starvation treatment as a way to manage diabetes, not unlike the treatments that were used by others in history.

In 1921, Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best repeated the work of von Mering and Minkowski. They also gave the diabetic dogs insulin extracts from healthy dogs and found the results to be in their favor. In 1922, they purified insulin from pancreases of cows and created an effective treatment for diabetes available. This earned them a Nobel Prize in 1923.

January 1922 saw the very first patient to receive insulin injections, a 14-year-old named Leonard Thompson. He lived another 13 years before he died of pneumonia at age 27.

In 1936, Sir Harold Percival Himsworth published his work about differentiating between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

In 1982, the first biosynthetic human insulin, Humulin, was created that was identical in chemical structure to human insulin. It was mass produced and available globally.

In 1988, metabolic syndrome was discovered by Dr. Gerald Reaven. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that raises risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health problems. Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition. It is diagnosed when any three of the following five risk factors are present:
• High blood glucose (sugar)
• Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the
blood
• High levels of triglycerides in the blood
• Large waist circumference or “apple-shaped” body
• High blood pressure

In the centuries that diabetes has been present in human history, we as humans have come so far. In Ancient Greece, they prescribed physical activity and a change in diet, just as we do today. Where they might only have lived weeks or months with their condition, now we can survive many years and thrive with diabetes.

Perhaps someday we can find a cure to diabetes instead of preventative measures. There are many organizations around today doing research in diabetes to find a cure. You can help donate to their efforts.

American Diabetes Association
Cures Within Reach
American Society of Nephrology


References

American Heart Association
News Medical: Life Sciences
Medical News Today


Spread the Word

Did you like this post? Do you know someone that could benefit from it? Share it with your family and friends!

Follow the Young and Diabetic to get a free Diabetic Log download!

Use it to log your medication, blood sugar, exercise, and food every day.

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.

You are following this blog (manage).

Want to see more from this blog? Take this survey to tell me what you want to learn more about!