Preservation work has now been completed on rare home movie footage of Ruby Bridges, thanks to a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
The brief, silent 8mm film was shot by Josie Ritter, who was a teacher at William Franz Elementary School when Ruby became the first black student to integrate it in 1960. The first portion of the film, shot through a window from inside the school, records white protesters picketing outside, carrying signs and Confederate flags – a sight young Ruby and her classmates would have had to endure as they attended classes. The following scenes show Ruby and her classmates playing outside together in the school yard. Ruby and her friends hold dolls in their laps as they sit outside in the grass. While the footage is dark and murky in places, Ruby’s recognizable hair bow is clearly visible.
Home movies are increasingly being recognized as the valuable cultural records they are. Although amateur films often (though not always!) lack the polish of their professional counterparts, they are more likely to reach into spheres inaccessible to the makers of feature films and documentaries. If Mrs. Ritter had not had the foresight to recognize the cultural value of these images, this record of Ruby’s first year at William Franz would not exist.
This grant has allowed Amistad to pay for the creation of new film masters for the footage, as well as high resolution digital files and DVD access copies. Amistad extends a thank you to the National Film Preservation Foundation for recognizing the value of this recording, and for providing the funds that allow institutions like Amistad to make these films available to audiences for years to come. Contact the Amistad Research Center if you would like to view the film.
Images from the Alan Wieder collection. Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission