Civil Rights Icon
     Ruby Bridges 
    Special Visit
    October 13, 2010
    Ruby Rockwell
    "The Problem We All Live With"
    by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

    Well-Know Civil Rights Icon Ruby Bridges Visits Lincoln School

    Fifty Years Later, Ruby Bridges Still Helps to Build Bridges and Break Barriers Across America


    Just one month shy of the 50th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ historic walk into William Franz Public School in New Orleans, LA, the students of Lincoln Elementary School in Caldwell, NJ, met the remarkable woman who for so many people represents the integration of schools.  For two hours on Wednesday, October 13, students in grades two through five listened to Ms. Bridges recount the series of events that led her to become the first black student in the previously all-white school, and stress the important roles that the children of today will play in shaping the world of tomorrow.

    Funded by Lincoln School’s Home and School Association and a grant from the Caldwell-West Caldwell Education Foundation, the visit took more than seven months to schedule, during which the teachers and staff, led by media specialist Doreen Golembeski, prepared the children through books, movies and history lessons. 

    “We wanted the children to understand the significance of what Ms. Bridges accomplished, the obstacles she faced, and the changes that have occurred because of the steps she and her parents took nearly 50 years ago,” said Golembeski.  “It was truly an honor to have her here.”

    Born in Mississippi in 1954, the oldest child of Abon and Lucille Bridges, Ms. Bridges was one of only six black students who passed a test, allowing her to enter the first grade at one of the formerly all-white schools in November 1960.  The six students were to attend either William Franz or McDonough Public School. However, two students decided against the move, and six-year old Bridges was left to be the sole black student escorted by US Marshalls into William Franz Public School.  She entered amidst a threatening, name-calling crowd of white people.    

    Fifty years later, Ms. Bridges is now married and a mother of four, sharing her story, excerpts from her books and movie, and interacting with the students in a variety of question and answer situations.  Her books and movie not only detail her story, but the story of a country just beginning a civil rights battle that for some is still going on today. 

    The children of Lincoln School listened to Ms. Bridges, answering her questions and asking her others, mesmerized by this woman that they had come to learn so much about.  “Were you scared that first day when you saw the crowds?” asked a third grade student.  “No,” answered Bridges.  “I didn’t know yet that they weren’t happy that I was there.  I thought it was like Mardi Gras, a parade.”  However, Ms. Bridges would soon learn why the crowds were there each morning, why she had her own teacher, and why only a handful of other children even attended the school.  She would have nightmares about the black doll that lay inside a child-sized coffin brought to the school by protesters.  “I would dream about that coffin flying around my room at night,” said Bridges.  “But then I would pray like my mother taught me to and it would go away.”

    Ms. Bridges’ has written “Through My Eyes,” a first-hand account of what it was like to be a small six-year old black girl in New Orleans, LA, who sets the stage for school integration.  Ms. Bridges is also the subject of a famous Norman Rockwell painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” and was written about in John Steinbeck’s Travel’s with Charley.  She’s also the subject of a picture book entitled The Story of Ruby Bridges by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Coles who was her child psychiatrist at the time and illustrated by George Ford, and a Disney movie called Ruby Bridges.

    For more information on Ruby Bridges, visit her website at http://www.rubybridges.com. 
    Written by Christine Corliss
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