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November 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges did something monumental yet something we take for granted every year in the life of a school-aged child—she entered first grade at William Frantz Elementary School just blocks from her home, but this was an all-white school. She was the first African American child to enter this school in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to the toxicity at the time, she was escorted by her mother and four United States marshals.
Take note: the year Ruby Bridges was born, 1954, was the same year the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas passed, which ended racial segregation in public schools.
The experience was life transforming and she has dedicated her life to civil rights. In 1999, Ruby established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance, respect, and the appreciation of differences, ultimately seeking to end racism and prejudice. Their motto: "Racism is a grown-up disease, and we must stop using our children to spread it."
In 1964, artist Norman Rockwell celebrated her courage with a painting of that first day entitled, “The Problem We All Live With.”
Ruby Bridges and President Barack Obama at the White House viewing Norman Rockwell’s painting in July 2011 on loan from The Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. President Barack Obama told her, “If it hadn’t been for you…I might not be here…” Bridges commented, “to be standing shoulder to shoulder with history and viewing history—it's just once in a lifetime.”
Today, she is a civil rights activist and author, with her children's release, , telling the story of that day, with illustrations by Nikkolas Smith.