Wearing a white cardigan, ruffled socks and carrying a plaid satchel at her side, six-year-old Ruby Bridges walked past an angry crowd and into history on the morning of Nov. 14, 1960.
Six years after Brown v. Board of Education had mandated school desegregation, Ruby Bridges would become the first African-American child to break the school color barrier in the South. Accompanied by her mother and four federal marshals, she made her way up the steps of New Orleans’ William Franz Elementary School to pave the way for lasting change and become an icon of the civil rights movement.
Bridges, now 64 and the mother of four, will deliver this year’s Spring Convocation address to the student body at Methodist University. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Feb. 11 in Huff Concert Hall in the Reeves Fine Arts Complex.
“We are honored that Ruby Bridges will be speaking on our campus,” said Methodist University President Dr. Stanley T. Wearden. “Her moral courage and clarity as a leader in the struggle to ensure equal civil rights for all Americans extends back to her childhood and serves as an inspiration and a call to action for us all.”
Bridges, a lifelong activist for racial equality, spent most of her first-grade year at William Frantz Elementary without the company of other children, as many parents refused to allow their children to attend school with her. Only one person, Barbara Henry, would agree to be her teacher.
As an adult, Bridges established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change through education. She was depicted in a 1964 Norman Rockwell painting entitled “The Problem We All Live With,” that was inspired by her pioneering role in achieving social justice. She was invited to the White House in 2011, where she met with President Barack Obama. A copy of the Rockwell painting was displayed for several months in the West Wing of the White House, just outside the Oval Office.
Bridges is the subject of the song “Ruby’s Shoes,” by folk singer Lori McKenna, and her childhood struggle at William Frantz Elementary School was portrayed in the 1998 made-for-TV movie “Ruby Bridges” and in the children’s book “The Story of Ruby Bridges.”
About the Event
Methodist University is pleased to invite members of the press to convocation. Per Ruby Bridges’ contract, press will not be allowed to record or take photos during the event. The event will be followed by a book signing, where members of the press are free to interview students and take photos.