On November 14, 1960, surrounded by armed US marshals, six-year-old Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans. Many already know Ruby and her story. Norman Rockwell’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With” remains a quintessential image of the Civil Rights Movement. John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America also includes a description of Ruby walking past angry mobs to enter school. Robert Coles penned a 1995 book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, and soon after Walt Disney Home Entertainment produced a television movie based on her life. The movie received the honor of being screened in the White House, and on January 8, 2001 President Bill Clinton presented Ruby Bridges Hall with the Presidential Citizens Medal. In 1999, Ruby published her own award-winning memoir, Through My Eyes.
In addition, a public school in Alameda, California honored Ruby by naming Ruby Bridges Elementary School after her. The school opened on October 27, 2006.
One of the world’s largest children’s museums, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, has focused on the importance of Ruby Bridge’s story and created a permanent exhibition entitled “The Power of Children,” which has become an icon of the museum. The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through the lives of three children who faced profound trials and emerged as heroes of the 20th century—Ruby Bridges, Anne Frank, and Ryan White. All three of these children’s stories exemplify Ruby’s belief that every individual can make a difference.
Ruby is also being honored as part of Oakland’s monument, “Remember Them,” which features 25 famous people who fought for peace or human rights.
As a lecturer, Ruby brings her message to children and adults nationwide. She also established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of all differences through educational programs. A major focus of the foundation has been a program called Ruby’s Bridges, which connects students, parents, and educators from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The goal of the program is to build lasting relationships, which will allow individuals to transcend their differences and achieve racial reconciliation. One of the strategies of Ruby’s Bridges is to involve students in service learning projects that foster a sense of community responsibility. From planting trees and caring for the environment at state parks to working with others in need, the program has provided students with the skills to collaborate on meaningful causes. The ultimate goal of the foundation is to move first our children and then our society as a whole toward the elimination of racism and prejudice.