The American Studies Institute will conclude its distinguished lecture series with Ruby Bridges, author and civil rights activist, Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Benson Auditorium. Bridges was the first black child to integrate into an elementary school in the South.
“ASI is honored to bring Ruby Bridges to our campus,” ASI president senior Emily Mylhousen said. “Our country is still hurting from racial tensions, as we often forget that the Civil Rights Movement is not as far back in our country’s history as we would like to think. Bridges’ message will surely remind us for our country’s history and will shed light on such injustice and inequality.”
Bridges was 6 years old when she was escorted by federal marshals into William Frantz Elementary School on Nov. 14, 1960. The event inspired the Disney Movie “Ruby Bridges,” Norman Rockwell’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” and the book, “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Cole. Bridges published her story in a children’s book, “Through My Eyes” in 1999.
In her book, Bridges depicts the scene of a shouting crowd while she entered the elementary school for the first time. She was ostracized by white families who refused to send their children to school while Bridges attended, and she often encountered a mob on the way to school.
Bridges continued learning in an empty classroom for months before two boys joined the school. She graduated from high school and in 1999 formed the Ruby Bridges Foundation.
Mylhousen said she watched the movie “Ruby Bridges” as a child and remembered her story.
“From the first time I found out that Ruby Bridges would be an ASI lecture speaker, I have been eagerly awaiting her visit to campus,” Mylhousen said. “I have always been amazed at her courage and bravery, and I am truly excited to listen to her story.”
Bridges is on the board of directors for the Norman Rockwell Museum, an honorary federal U.S. marshal, and she is the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, presented to her by President Bill Clinton.
Senior Luke Dalton, vice president of activities for ASI, said his father attended Little Rock Central High School soon after the Little Rock Nine integrated into the school. Dalton said his father told him stories about racism at the high school. He said these stories helped him better understand Bridges’ story.
“The American Studies Institute offers a stage to individuals who have driven change in today’s world,” Dalton said. “Ruby Bridges’ story surely qualifies as one of change. Bridges’ story goes to show how much racial relations have improved in such a short time, and reminds us to follow closely the command ‘love thy neighbor.'”